Archive for September, 2006|Monthly archive page
Indulgence, let’s start there. Diddy wants the best for his new album, of course: he hires a host of talent, including Kanye, to produce for him. Gets guests who are hot (Cee-Lo) and respected (Nas). And since he’s already come clean about using ghostwriters, why not hire some dudes too to put paper to pen for him (credited or not).
On “Everything I Love” he combines all the elements for what could be a banging track. West digs up the big horns and drops lockstep drum breaks — even dances Cee-Lo around during the chorus. Diddy heaves a little to keep up with the breakneck rhythm, spitting words he’s been practicing since yesterday but never seen before, gaining confidence only after he catches his breath. What comes out of his mouth sounds written by someone else about Diddy, boastfully biographical but parsed together tighter than the man himself could ever write. (The detail about having a worn out American Express Black card is a nice touch.) Nas comes down on the track like a hawk, no lamaze breathing necessary to blow up his bars even. That he can perform his lines takes the sting out of the possibility someone wrote for him too. The grandstanding outro takes indulgence to the limit, dropping a solid minute of rollicking organ solo. Right. Despite this self-satisfying gospel breakdown, the first thing on Diddy’s mind is selling albums. So this record is going to find him wearing a lot of hats to keep up. That said, I can’t tell if I should anticipate his record or not. The list of anticipated releases is looking awfully short these days.
So before I disappeared for three weeks, before a meta music blog demi-god emerged from Nick Denton’s ass, quite possibly before spring-made-summer-made-fall, one of my old favorite’s posted a song by The Cyrkle.
No, they’re not misguided teens with plans to piss off grammar hammers. The Cyrkle were a 60s Pennsylvanian four-piece with more notoriety for the people they knew than the music they put out. Through a bunch of handshakes, the guys had Brian Epstein pulling strings for them (“The Cyrkle” supposedly being the invention of someone named Lennon), marketing their blithe pop music and conning Paul Simon to unload a b-side for their debut album. For all the bu$ine$$ being done, no one much paid attention past the Simon-penned “Red Rubber Ball.” And despite releasing two more tepid LPs (including one soundtrack to a soft porn flick), The Cyrkle mercifully faded back into the presswood living room they were spawned in.
However, one gem glints in the dissolvable cotton-candy ball that was second album, Neon. “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” is a song of joyous rejection — a kiss off to Lady Tramp/Unfriendly Joe and the damn barber who tried to take their sideburns all at once. The crush of Simonesqe vocals, heavy blooms of piano chords and some tinny strums is a bit of a headrush. Neat little snare taps get the sugar cloud moving into a sudden chorus. “It doesn’t matter anymore / I know! / I took you back before / But I’m all through forgiving you” sounds superb from The Cyrkle’s mouths, with a keen eye for harmony keeping things lush. In fact, if their sound was a few members heavier they could pass for American Zombies. When the song swaps key signatures it’s as if the clouds have parted long enough for a sunbeam smack in the eyes, and not an unpleasant trip either (sunglasses — you thought ahead). At the end of the bridge, with about 15 seconds left, the bittersweet harmony (long and drawn out so everyone can catch it) is straight outta’ The Carpenters single toolbox. And it’s all you can think about as the piano gallops to the end. This song is too much fun to hum along to, especially for a “hey, nicely fuck off” tune — one of those 60s mini-classics to dig up from time to time. Thanks again for excavating it from the boneyard of pop bands, Chris.
Now if we can only get a Mix on L-R…
The Grates & Rogue Wave @ Logan Square Auditorium (9.7.06)
It’s a good thing the mood was as jovial and nearly-weekended as it was in Logan Square Auditorium. As The Grates bopped through their brisk opening track, it was evident there was no room for seriousness, so the jaded and cynical better get on the Fun Train. The Grates are a mostly three, sometimes four piece group from Australia (a roadie or something like one played keys for a couple songs). Singer Patience Hodgson hopped around like a punch drunk Snoopy, even barking for effect. Her high-step dance moves were often more energetic than the music itself, even offering some joi d’vivre for the tunes to feed from. Drummer Alana Skyring (those Aussies have some great names) might as well have been chopping wood with the locktight battering she dealt her kit. And guitarist John Patterson put in just enough effort to spit out pop rock riffs without breaking much of a sweat. The band’s tunes fell somewhere between Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the least aggressive Bikini Kill material: lightweight, smiling and quick to desolve from the mind. Hodgson’s chatty charisma was far more memorable, treating the sometimes silent crowd like pals she’d made over snowcones. The cuteness broke through the meter during the second to last song when she invited two preteen girls to deliver some lyrics (apparently they had also appeared on the recorded version). The battle to win hearts (or at least mine) was won; neither they nor I was concerned with the artistic merit, but rather with a cheery atmosphere The Grates created in which to get merry.
Rogue Wave was able to ride the high spirits for most of the rest of the night. Playing mostly from 2005’s Descended Like Vultures, the band’s sound was a bit more muscled and lively than when recorded. At the same time, handfuls of delicate details were flattened under steady-rockin’ guitar lines and drummer Pat Spurgeon’s well-mic’ed drumwork. One of the most accurate criticisms of the group — that they sound like The Shins’ younger siblings — seemed less fitting. Live, singer Zach Rogue’s pipes call to mind Colin Meloy singing from his mouth rather than the back of his nose, instead of lead Shin, James Mercer. RW were just as sunny as their Albuquerque-brethen and more able to play with back and forth time signatures. The few songs they played from 2004’s Out of the Shadow showed signs of slight evolution: “Every Moment” was less brittle and more like a race to a showy finish line; “Endgame” was now a bruised and bittersweet meditation, dropping the cheesy synth line for some honest to god emotion. Rogue Wave also whisked through two new tunes punchier than all their previous work and just as comfortable to hear. As the night stretched on, the setlist favored slow-burners with unimaginative jam patches — the increase in yawns was exponential. Fun was still on the agenda, especially in the encore, but it was a bit more hug-your-neighbor than swing-your-partner. And after a night of joyous spirits, the warm comedown was appreciated.
At 19, Jesse McCartney has had a more successful career than most young pop stars — or most young people in general. First reaching platinum at 13 with peach fuzz boy band, Dream Street, McCartney continued to put out solo singles which landed in Disney flicks and Disney-related shows. In 2004 he put out his first solo record, Beautiful Soul, a precisely manufactured slab of teen pop with just enough sex appeal to give teens of many persuasions a little tingle, and lyrics neutered against parental outrage.
To promote his new album, Right Where You Want Me, Jesse’s teamed up with ABC Family Channel for a strange show (“Schooled”) wherein adults punk kids (who totally deserve it) then toss them a concert. I guess this is the side of punking Jesse prefers. I’m sure there’s more to it, but from the Google Video promo page, that’s all I can gather. Also exclusively hosted on the site is the vid for the new single. Where similarities to Justin Timberlake were merely glancing before, they’re almost undeniable now: His voice has found a steady, slightly deepened trail to stick to; his drawn out notes have the same nasal pang; his lips form words with the same near twang (opening line: “Giiiirrrrll-agh”), and most of all, his desires are adult. Now we won’t hear him suggest his chick whip him or call other boys motherfuckers (on this record), but someone very carefully ushered JM in this direction. In lieu of punky neu-vintage tees and shaggy boy hair, Jesse has been groomed to grow up — cropped spiked hair, button down shirt and dance steps. There’s a band behind him, a mic for him to rock casually. Even the girl he’s chasing after in the constantly shifting setting is older, about 20-22 from my guesstimate. The tune itself is a mesh of Rob Thomas’s pointedly obvious lyrics and melodies, JT’s vocal meandering and guitar strums, and the blandness of Maroon 5 on instrumental duty — nothing thrilling, but a new step for Jesse. It’s also his least Radio Disney-sounding single to date.
What keeps McCartney in Kiddieland is his association with all things Disney — a safe bet with limits. And it makes sense to stay there, with a nearly guaranteed audience, unlimited promotion and tie-ins (so long as the kids still like him) and probably lots of money. At the same time, a pair of constraining mouse ears could keep him harmless and, well, playing for kids. I suppose it’s not fair to guess what his ambitions are, or to speculate that he’d rather be doing something else. But as a boy becomes a man, entertaining children may be less and less comfortable or exciting.
Now I’m not going to pretend like I hate 50 Cent like so many are willing to do. Occasionally the guy can spit; and while it’s not often that he comes up with lines like “I love you like a fat kid loves cake,” his best songs are among my favorite commercial hip-hop songs from their respective years (“Love It Or Hate It” is a prime example).
But I don’t know what it says about a rapper when Perez Hilton is the first to notice a new diss track. From the sounds of it, this is from a newish DJ Kay Slay mix. On it, 50 rattles through lines quicker than I’ve ever heard him rhyme, clipping off syllables to keep up with the “It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop” beat. The first half is purely brags about gun-toting, money-stacking and chrome-having, getting three requirements out of the way quickly. And it’s really not aimed at anyone, just popping off shots at the competition.
Things take a paranoid turn with “Who shot Biggie Smalls? We don’t get them they gon’ kill us all,” then drops some blame squarely on P. Diddy and the West coast. Dropping cadence, 50 just starts yelling with tons of reverb in what might be a cave or stretch Escalade. “I guess this means I won’t be invited to the white parties in the Hamptons,” he crows, “I don’t give a fuck” before revealing the issue at hand: contract negotiations over Mase. Like a spoiled child, 50 pushes the deal away (“I don’t wanna do the deal no more, fuck the deal”) before airing all the dirty laundry about travel fees and lodging costs, etc. It’s no longer a diss track, it’s a one-sided shouting match that Diddy will never respond to — the guy gets paid to piss on camera. This track would be far more relevant and impressive if Mr. Cent would have maintained his cool and kept rapping his business concerns. Someone should remind him he was on the “Hail Mary” Ja Rule diss track (another sitting duck, but entertaining nonetheless), so he will just rhyme, not whine.
This might be unnecessary because of a complete absence of promotion, but I still feel like a loudmouthed stance is necessary: do not see Idiocracy.
Idiocracy is the latest film from Mike Judge, the creator of the above-mentioned show/movie, as well as King of the Hill. Now KOTH I like; it’s one of the few cartoons on network television to keep me laughing however many seasons in (the last five seasons of The Simpsons can suck a fatty). So sure, I’ll go see another Judge creation. That being said, I wasn’t aware there was one until well after its release. Yesterday Defamer posted about the movie’s un/intentional low profile, saying it took in only $160,000 since its release.
Do you know much film has been spent on Frank Zappa’s screw-loose genius antics? Because I always get caught watching YouTube at work, I did not. Here Zappa pals around with Monkee Michael Nesmith in an a switcheroo bonding scene — car demolition is a must. Here is the first part of an entire concert in Stockholm in 1973, wherein the keyboardist Ian Underwood destroys the stage with thwacks of noise and malfunction blues. Or, predate his fame and watch him on the Steve Allen show, abusing bicycles to make music. I’m going to let you figure that out, and witness Allen drop some tension re: Asia.
I read in an AMG bio saying Talulah Gosh was so shambling, that oftentimes live shows would be interrupted by equipment falling apart in their hands. Now from the looks of them, they weren’t losing their shit on stage. Their Backwash collection really hits the light music munchies spot. Adorable without being cutesy, hazy without laziness, Talulah Gosh reminds me of the JAMC without their spiny casing and a happier outlook. Here’s “Just a Dream” and “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction (Thank God)”
Clipse & Slim Thug is an insanely great idea; why did it take so long to put this together? “What It Do, Wamp Wamp” is cavorting covert joint popping eyeballs with steel drum ensembles and Eastern vibes. With lyrics flying like guided missles and someone just beating the shit out of their drums, this hard and heavy single could blow up quick if played in the right places. And Hell Hath No Fury? Things are looking good.