Archive for November, 2006|Monthly archive page
Look how neatly he fits!
Anyone who’s thought, “Gee, pop stars should release more disstracks,” few as we might be, behold “Give It To Me” — the purported first single from Timbaland’s upcoming solo release. Tim’s had no trouble filling Magoo’s tiny voice/big shoes, (though he might be found elsewhere on the record, TBA) cashing in some chart-topping karma from Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado. Their verses (and hook, in Nelly’s case) are brazen, success-flauting taunts at detractors and rivals. Furtado sounds more like Gwen Stefani in timbre and tact (+ out of tune) than ever before, even flaunting her status as Mean Girl, no, a Rich Girl, her days as a happy bird long since slammed in a Phantom door. JT, of course, is no stranger to stuffing songs with ill will; this is the first time we hear him pop (chart?) opponents in the jaw with his triumph. Although it’s unclear who he’s gunning for, I suspect he’s aiming at Janet Jackson when he mentions “let me clear the air” and “we missed you on the charts last / damn, that’s right, you wasn’t there.” Unclever critics also get skewered: “if sexy never left then why’s everybody on my shit / don’t hate on me because you didn’t come up with it.” The man has a point. Timbaland has always been an excellent braggart so diss wasn’t as much a reach for him. Here he bites a little deeper and throws his producing crown in Scott Storch’s: “I’m a real producer and you just a piano man” and “niggas talking greedy / I’m the one that give them they chance.” Perhaps Tim pushed JT and Nelly for aggressive barbs like these to match his needed hardass, “I’m behind the boards and up front in respect, I fart better songs than you” persona. I guess when heavy bobby & whitney talk makes pop radio tick you can’t just be awesome anymore.
Timbaland bust out the door so fast with this single, firearms ablaze, that it sounds unfinished and unrehearsed, leading me to believe this wasn’t meant for our ears just yet. Thick, bang on the floor drums provide a quaking foundation, a likewise dizzy interplay of synth puffs fills the air, and the stability of the track is questionable. Rhythmically, “Give It To Me” is an escalator shunning its track and bucking its passengers — too many beats for some phrases, not enough for others. Tim chops verses up (chopped & screwed sort of chopped) a bit to fit his unwieldy pattern, which keeps it an unpredictable, sometimes uncomfortable listen. I have a hard time believing Timbaland, with the quality control he exercises, would be satisfied with a theoretically interesting (kooky rhythms, pop stars chatting shit etc.) and musically mediocre track, let alone as the first shot fired from his solo record. Retooled and with a dollop of polish (or not, if we’re going for a lo-fi hip-hop kind of feel) this could work its way onto pop radio. Because if something this jaw-droppingly gawky can make a splash, Tim can empty the proverbial pool. With that much oil on his arms he’ll still be shiny too. What a fun, sexy time for you.
Chilean techno muppet Ricardo Villalobos and friend
When the song was but a rumor, or at least in rough form, it clocked in at 44 minutes. At 36 minutes, a length that would require being spread over multiple platters, Ricardo Villalobos’ “Fizbeast” helps push techno further from its vinyl roots. I’m actually quite fond of the idea of constructing longer pieces and selling it as product. The challenge of staying interesting at length can be like holding one’s breath for bands. DJs obviously have technology that makes these protracted tunes nearly effortless, but requiring a sharp outlook on taste.
If you were to sit in a factory and let the sound of mechanization doing its work sweep over you, “Fizbeast” might sinc up eerily well. Emotionless ticking snare, its reverberating counter rhythms and a hissing hi-hat make for a Metal Machine Music with more AcidPro and less angst and volume. Villalobos makes use of stereo and volume to slide the polar rhythm into the left channel, and again counter it with a sunken whisper.
“Fizbeast” reminds me of Richie Hawtin’s clicky, micro machine tracks. Besides a subtle underpinning of bass tones, the most significant source of melody (if you want to call it that) is pitch modulation of counter rhythms, sounding almost as if they were getting closer or further away from your person. I can’t say it’s often I hear someone aurally imitating the sensation of shaking our heads, let alone in such a tenuous techno song. The absence of climax (replaced, interestingly enough by a reduction in elements, then rebuilding anew with new metallic crackles or moans) is just as fitting — there’s no room for climax, just continuation.
With that in mind, “Fizbeast” almost becomes ambient techno by the time it finally collapses, care of its length and straight-forward yet inconspicuous approach. But without any warmth, listeners become attached to the track’s existence because it’s become in a fond, Stockholdian way. What’s more, the listener needs quiet or quality headphones to hear the elements that make the goliath track worthwhile; unlike LCD Soundsytem’s own behemoth, it’d be difficult to sweat it out to “Fizbeast.”
As length has become in vogue, more and more DJ/producers have been playing bountiful uncut versions, then whittling tracks to trimmer final editions. Not everyone can pull it off. This concept is one Villalobos seems to be married to for the time being, and to date he’s stretched his creations in interesting ways. “Fizbeast” might be a bit sterile for some, or at least better suited for those who dip clicks&cuts into their house music. Though I have a healthy respect for this cyborg slothful experiment, I prefer Villalobos more melodic material, regardless of its length. Phil Sherbourne‘s brilliant monthly column has digested this phenomenon in a manner that is not only wise but lived in.
Audio: Ricardo Villalobos, “Fizbeast” (Playhouse)
Iggy shares yoga tips in his garden.
I wonder what the protocol is for asking Iggy Pop to do vocals for your group. If it actually happens, it’s likely Pop’s already had an interest in your band for whatever reason (to which most of Skull Ring can be contentiously chalked up) and the actual moment isn’t as intense. For a tune like this — more accurately a role like this — I’d imagine Pop might have been stoked. During “Punk Rocker,” a tune by Sweden’s Teddybears with Iggy sitting in on the mic, the former Stooge practically pays tribute to himself by adopting a self-immortalizing character whose aloof proclamations are as amusing as they are fitting.
Like an old Cars single, “Punk Rocker” rattles to life with a hypnotic synth rhythm enforced with tambourine and a heady synth solo lead. When Pop shows up it’s just him and the bassist, whose sound and nonchalant performance make me think he owns a holster. Iggy’s voice trembles through the low, dramatic octaves like Ian Curtis, maybe even Interpol’s Paul Banks, and it’s difficult to identify him without specifically knowing he’s there. He’s driving in his car, being chased by the cops and not giving a shit. While he crows on about being fearless, a nasty, frantically wah’ed guitar riffs along — an unexpected attempt at something funky or dangerous sounding that’s entirely out of place in the tune. The chorus kicks up dirt, with bullheaded guitar lines crashing through the simple melody, Pop declares “I’m a punk rocker, yes I am.” Sounding as crisp, studio-shaped and poppy as it does, it’s difficult to agree with him sonically, but he sells it. This sentiment locks in after the tense bridge. Immersed in harnessed feedback, Iggy laments being “bored with being god,” and repeats an earlier line: “I’m listening to the music with no fear / You can hear it too if you’re sincere.” His ethic and his outlook bring a brash confidence that calls you out for questioning his choice of band or what-have-you. His sensational persona only furthers that he can and will do whatever the fuck he wants, and you can ride the wave or jump off, buster.
As a tune, it’s goths riding in cars with Iggy sound is infectious, if perhaps a bit cloying. Though Teddybears don’t usually sound like this (they have no singular sound; guest vocalists as disparate as Annie and Elephant Man also lend their talents to the album, which makes me again question how Pop got involved), this freeing combination allows one of rock’s favorite sons to ham it up, warm his space in history and move on. And hell, they get to say they worked with Iggy Pop, if that kind of thing matters to them. I’m guessing it does.