Thursday, November 19

Tweens, Twilight and Cell Phone Lighters: It Must Be Paramore


Artist: Paramore
Album: Brand New Eyes

Comments: At the end of September, Paramore released their third full-length album, and I’m just now picking it up from my local branch of the Philadelphia Free Public Library. Does this say something about Paramore or me?

I guess I should preface this post by admitting that I have fallen off the ‘keeping-up-with-new-music’ bandwagon, which I’m not proud of. In my defense, however, Paramore’s Brand New Eyes is an album that makes me think that I haven’t missed all that much.

Upon breezing through the CD only three songs really stuck out to me, apart from "Ignorance," the first single that has plagued Radio 104.5. The three highlights of the album are surprisingly the slower paced songs. When I think Paramore, I think fast-paced pop punk and I visualize tween-led faux mosh pits. Instead, these songs make me think of actually listening to their lyrics and I visualize tweens with cell phones waving in the air in place of the badass lighter effect.

With these three songs, lead singer Hayley Williams stretches her vocals and reminds fans that underneath it all, she has a gorgeous voice. Plus, the slower songs explore a musically-matured side of the band as a whole. Check out "The Only Exception," "Misguided Ghosts" and "All I Wanted" if you don’t believe me.

As far as the other songs on the album go, it’s your typical Paramore pop-punk. The first single is catchy, but doesn’t have much sticking power. The second single off the album, "Brick by Boring Brick" features a clap along at the close of the song, which is practically a signature for the band. A surprise, however, was that one of the track’s choruses threatens that “next time you point a finger I might have to bend it back/or break it break it off.” Yikes! Hayley and the boys are gonna pull out a can of whoop ass!

Oh, and just in case you are one of those "obsessed with Twilight" people (I think they are calling themselves ‘Twi-hards’ now or something equally weird), know that Paramore’s single for the movie is NOT on this CD. I repeat, NOT on this CD.

Overall feeling on Brand New Eyes? Not terrible. Not the band’s best work, either. I still say that Riot! is Paramore’s best full length, but then again, that was released in 2007 when I was probably still on that bandwagon with all the tweens and their cell phone “lighters.”

Key Tracks:
The Only Exception, Misguided Ghosts, All I Wanted

Buy, Steal, Skip: Steal



By Mary Elizabeth Sullivan

Wednesday, November 18

Now this, THIS is 50


Artist: 50 Cent
Album: Before I Self Destruct

Comments:
There are a few spots on Before I Self Destruct where 50 Cent sings, and he is just fucking terrible. Like, remarkably bad. What’s more, he doesn’t hide his off-key warbling with auto-tune or any kind of studio magic. Still, he keeps right on singing, oblivious or unaffected by his bad voice. Pure, tone-deaf balls.

It’s refreshing to hear. Balls, after all, is what has been missing from 50’s music since his firecracker 03' debut Get Rich or Die Tryin’. The time spent since that landmark release has been spent making uneven and uninspired albums littered with too many b-level guest spots, half-baked club jams and a handful of successfully vapid hit singles.

And, sure, dude made millions of dollars in the process. However, America didn’t fall in love with 50 because of hit capacity for radio-friendly hits. What made the man so compelling was his bravado, his swagger, his fucking confidence. Sure, he wasn’t the best lyricist and his persona is nothing new to gangster rap, but motherfucker had conviction, had the voice and delivery to make you believe. Real or not, 50 sounded hard, and his songs were like mule kicks.

Of course, it's been a long time since 50 Cent sounded like that. Which makes this album's strength all the more remarkable.

Self Destruct is 50 Cent reborn: the story of an older, more jaded, more isolated gangster returning to battle-ready mindset missing from his work for far too long. Like Marlo Stanfield, 50 is returning to what raised him with balled fists, the streets.

Most of the early album is about beef, a notion so antiquated in the modern rap scene that it’s almost refreshing. On “So Disrespectful,” 50 speaks on his uneasy relationship with Game and Jay-Z, even throwing an odd line or two at Dr. Dre, who produced a handful of the album’s better cuts. Pure balls. He saves his most telling attacks for Young Buck, hinting that, perhaps underneath all of his anger, there is more hurt there than he cares to admit. Regardless, 50 comes out cutting close to the bone and sounding all the better for it.

Other early standouts include the soulful Wu-like banger “Strong Enough” and the Dr. Dre produced “Death to my Enemies.” The former is a hungry, mournful track that paints 50 as ferocious and bloodthirsty as he’s ever been, and the latter is the first evidence that Detox might not be as terrible as common sense would indicate. Both tracks are pure bangers, villainous music from a confident gorilla flexing muscle for the first time in years.

If the album were limited to the first nine songs is would be an instant classic. As it is, the back half of the record is loaded with more of those soupy love songs and faux-club bangers people have come to expect from 50. Nothing really worth getting into back there, though it should be noted that “Baby By Me” would be a pretty good song if not for Ne-Yo.

It’s hard to imagine a multi-millionaire living in a Connecticut house previously owned by Mike Tyson feeling backed into a corner, but there is an element of caged animal to the best tracks on this album, as if 50’s recent loss of allies has made him more aggressive and lonesome.

Motivations and weak club tracks aside, what will stick are Before I Self Destruct’s darker moments. The bangers, the battle tracks that prove the 50 of old can still bring what made us love him in the first place: the invincible swagger and bravado of a real life hood-raised gangster.

Call it voyeur. Call it artificial. Call it exploitative. Just don’t call it boring. It’s the first 50 Cent album in some time that can boast that.

Key Tracks: Death to my Enemies, Strong Enough, So Disrespectful

Buy, Steal, Skip: Buy, for the first time in a while.


Tuesday, November 17

Rap Video Tuesday!!

Ok, so there is a finished review I need to post, but I just sent it to Noripcord and I didn't want to post it here before it showed up there, and I need to take a shower before work, and I don't have time to make links and...and...

Shit. Sorry guys.

On the bright side, this is probably my favorite rap video ever:


Monday, November 16

LOTD Invents a New Genre!


Artist: The Chinese Stars
Album: Heaven on Speed Dial

Comments: Ever since the untimely breakup of Death From Above 1979, indie rock has suffered from a lack of a hyper-specific genre of music, a style I am going to call Fuck-Core.

What is Fuck-Core, you ask? It's a brand of overly masculine and aggressive music that is entirely about dirty, depraved sex with strangers. It is the kind of music one would play if they were to bang a stranger on the bathroom sink of a bar, high as a kite on stimulants, ala Micky Rourke in The Wrestler. It has a focus on heavy, driving rhythms, cocaine-fueled guitar riffs and a general sense of being as emotionless and primal in lovemaking as possible. You're a Woman, I'm a Machine is Fuck-Core. Most of the Blood Brother's stuff is Fuck-Core.

While the genre might sound kind of unsavory, it does have its place. Considering how wimpy and limp most indie-rock comes off (too concerned with style over substance), a healthy blast of macho confidence can be refreshing. However, this only works if the artist can walk a fine line between being actually sexy and just being some coked-out weirdo.

Sadly, The Chinese Stars Heaven on Speed Dial walks that line about as well as a one-legged circus clown on a high-wire in downtown Chicago. In roller skates.

The album is nine songs of gritty guitar driven dance music that recalls both the Blood Brothers and DFA79, but never doing as well as either. Tracks range from Liars-esque anti music (the bracing album opener "Rabbit Face") to blatant attempts at decadence (the cringe worthy "Lick it Clean"). Lead singer Eric Paul's vocals are a bit of a drag: every song is sung / screamed in a high-pitch wail that is occasionally effective but often just an irritation. The guitar work, which is the signature element of the band, is equally problematic, inspiring more cringes than sexy grinding.

The album does yield a few worthy tracks. Those with an ear for noise will like "Rabbit Face." Tracks like "No Car No Job" and "Slow Children" are legitimately groovy, showing off a rock-solid rhythm section. The slow build of "House is Burning" takes over four minutes to fully mature, and the restraint makes the track the best on the album, one of the few tracks where all the band's elements work together.

However, these few chestnuts and glimpses of quality are few and far between. Most of Heaven on Speed Dial comes off as low-class and creepy, the audio equivalent of that dude at a rave who sells Ecstasy to high school girls only to watch them from the wall of the warehouse, waiting for his moment to pounce on their chemically-enhanced hormones. No one likes that guy.

That guy isn't sexy, he's just a drugged out weirdo. This album isn't sexy or decadent: it's just kinda bad.

Key Tracks: Slow Children, House is Burning

Buy, Steal, Skip: I'd skip it.


Thursday, November 12

Rap Video Thursday!!


I've really tried to be a Freeway fan, but between getting decimated by Cassidy and his crazy uneven albums, he's just a lot of wasted talent.

At least we'll always have "What We Do," one of his best, most quotable tracks to date.

(Sorry about the ad in this video. "I'll try to find a better one after work.)


Wednesday, November 11

...I Mean, It's Better Than That Say Anything Double Album, Which Was, Honestly, Really Shitty


Artist: Say Anything
Album: Say Anything

Comments: A while back I had this pipe dream idea for an audio project. I wanted to follow around some of the homeless people in Suburban Station and record them as they spoke.

I'm not talking about your average down-on-his / her-luck homeless person, either. I mean the ones who are obviously suffering from mental disorders of some kind, the ones that spoke to themselves in hushed and hurried tones, as if they were discussing the secrets of the universe with some unknown, invisible deity.

Now, I will never follow up on this idea. I know that it is exploitative and inconsiderate. I realize the using someone's disability for my own perverse interest is as callous and sinful an act as I could commit. And I really don't want to get stabbed. Still, there is a part of me that will always be fascinated by people with no filter for their thoughts and emotions. I find that kind of rambling freedom intensely fascinating.

Which might explain why I even bothered to pick up Say Anything's self titled new album.

Say Anything lead singer and primary songwriter Max Bemis is about as close to my dream of listening to vagrants as I am going to get. Bemis is well documented for his social anxiety problems, struggles with medication and his often unhinged vocal delivery, which are so rambling and ripe with palpable emotion that boarder on madness. And while these traits are compelling in and of themselves, Say Anything have also turned out some really catchy emo-punk tunes in the past, especially on their proper debut ...Is A Real Boy.

However, taking voyeuristic pleasure in another man's unbalanced life isn't enough to save Say Anything. Bemis and Co abandon their pop-punk leanings on this album, instead relying on their pop instincts to produce an album of occasionally interesting but ultimately empty radio-ready jams.

Now, I know what you are thinking, and fuck you for thinking it. There is nothing wrong with radio-ready rock music, especially if its made well and is more well written than most, which cuts like “Do Better” certainly are. However, too much of this album just sounds like stale versions of songs they've already done better on previous albums or self indulgent bullshit aimed at “enlightening” adolescents.

On the bright side, Bemis does make with the crazy on a coupe of tracks (“Eloise” and “Mara and Me” are particularly ridiculous and awesome), and this record is way better than that double album monstrosity of In Defense of The Genre. But, really, its just one kinda sucky record instead of two kinda sucky records.

I don't know. Maybe I'm just no fun. Maybe I'm just getting too old for this shit. I found Say Anything a lot more fun when they wrote punk songs. These new pop tracks aren't really bad. They are just kind of bland and nondescript, and no amount of unhinged insanity can really fix that.



Key Tacks: Fed to Death, Do Better, Eloise, Mara and Me

Buy, Steal, Skip: Steal it if you must.

Monday, November 9

Tegan and Sara Get Sad, Happy, Canonized


Artist: Tegan and Sara
Album: Sainthood

Comments: I want to buy Tegan and Sara Quin a beer. They come off as such unhappy women, I bet they could use a drink.

It seems like every song they've ever written has been about being in love, falling out of love or the damage that falls somewhere between those two extremes. Even if one isn't listening for lyrics, the music itself (while coming quite a long way since their tampon-rock folk days) has an element of melancholy: an intangible quality of sadness that would dampen spirits even if the lyrics were about trampolines and puppy dog ice cream parties.

It should come as no surprise then to learn that the best tracks on Sainthood, the duo's latest album, are the ones that don't make you want to put a gun in your mouth.

Take, for example, the album closing “Someday”: a cheery guitar riff hums beneath a downright triumphant keyboard melody as the sisters Quin encourage the listener to “Move Up!” and “Reach Out!” before confidently reminding that they “Might write something that I want to say to you someday / mark my words I will be something someday.” This kind of well crafted feel good music is a long way removed from weepers like “Knife Going In.”

While the positive attitudes are welcome when present, mopers will fine plenty to get angsty about on Sainthood. Tracks like “Don't Rush” and “Hell” are the kind of dark fare that they duo perfected on their moody high water mark, 2007's The Con.

The overall mood of that record was palpable enough to let some lesser tracks slip by unnoticed, but the same cannot be said of Sainthood's duds, like the overly dramatic “Red Belt” and the Chris Walla-y “On Directing.” The album's better tracks, however, combine the sad-sackery with slick pop arrangements and solid song structure (see “The Cure,” the hurried "The Ocean" and the Sleater Kinney biting “Northshore”).

At its worst, Sainthood comes off like second-rate Death Cab For Cutie from a female's perspective. However, when it hits its stride, the record is a fine collection of mature, forward thinking indie pop that can be enjoyed by the heartbroken and the unmolested alike.

On the surface, Sainthood maintains Tegan and Sara's reign as the progressive poet laureates of relationship-related malaise. However, the real triumph of the record comes in the realization that if these gals can keep sharpening their pop senses and lyrical chops, they are going to put together a modern classic sometime soon.



Key Tracks: Someday, The Cure, The Ocean

Buy, Steal, Skip: Buy

Wednesday, October 28

Is Dizzee Rascal Popular in Great Britian? I Really Have No Clear Idea of What Goes on Over There.


Artist: Dizzee Rascal
Album: Tongue N' Cheek

Comments: If blogs and general pop music trends are to be believed (and really at this point I have no good reason to think that they can't be), whatever unholy afterbirth is spawned from the diseased sperm and rotten womb of this new Rap / Techno explosion will be the next big thing to hit both top 40 radio and the underground.

Sings of this monstrously terrible trend are already all over the place. The bursting of the low-fi / garage rock bubble, giving a clear window for this new wave of terrible 80s synth-touched techno music that has become prominent along the same time as the bastardization and castration of the digital music boom, has left us hipsters at the mercy of unlistenable coke addicts making loops on their macbooks and selling it to us as culture.

And in the mainstream world, they have autotune, which basically makes it possible for anyone, anyone, ANYONE to make a hit record as long as it has a good beat and a catchy hook. Granted, catchy hooks and good beats are still as elusive as ever, but now is the time for pretenders and one hit wonders to thrive, pull for their paltry 15 and move the fuck on before the next yahoo gets his spin.

Shit, I'm talking about this as if it already inst happening. Truth be told, the first few waves of this noisy shit sea are already crashing on our ruined shores. David Guetta's first, last and only single "Sexy Bitch" is all over the goddamn place, merging 4th rate rave beats with all the poetry and art that can come with calling a girl a sexy bitch.

And on the more underground side, at least in the states, we have Dizzee Rascal's latest album Tongue N' Cheek, which is billed as, get this, the exact combination of techno and rap that I mentioned above.

Thankfully, the album isn't as bad as I originally predicted. Most of the cuts are just straightforward rap with more digitized production, which is to say its less about trunk rattling and more about dancing, at least in spirit if not in content. And that's OK: rap music started out in the late 70s as dance music, so it makes sense to merge it now with a newer kind of dance music.

However, there is one song on the record that is the total embodiment of the nightmare scenario that the combination of techno and hip hop could produce. The song is called "Bonkers," and it's the kind of...thing...that you really need to hear to fully comprehend its putridity.

If you like this song, you are either on drugs, an idiot or both:



But besides this misstep, Tongue N' Cheek isn't so bad. If you are into Dizzee Rascal already, you'll be down with this. If you aren't keen, this isn't the ideal place to start, but you could still have some fun with the record.

Key Tracks: Bonkers, Chillin' Wiv Da Man Dem, Freaky Freaky

Buy, Steal, Skip: ...I would buy this, but I wouldn't encourage 1st timers to start here, and I wouldn't be a in a rush to go out and get it.

Tuesday, October 13

Struggling With The Wu Tang Clan Once More / I Miss the 90s / Raekwon's Sad Goodbye / I Wonder What Matt Judge Is Up To These Days?


Artist: Raekwon
Album: Only Built For Cuban Linx Pt 2

Comments: Okay.

Okay, okay okay.

Okay.

Yes.

Yes, Only Built For Cuban Linx Part 2 is good.

Yes, it is very good. Yes, it is probably the best assembly of rappers, producers and songs of the year.

But the shit isn't an album. It's a time machine. A very specific, poorly designed time machine that can only go to one place and time in history, no where else. It is a vessel that is capable only of going back, only of traveling to the fall of 1994, and no where else.

And, shit, why wouldn't you want to go back to the early 90s, when underground rap was exploding? Why wouldn't you want to go back to a time when the Wu Tang Clan was the driving force in hip hop, east coast or otherwise? Why wouldn't you want to live again when everything was dirty dusty, covered in grime and power and hate and force and confidence and fucking authenticity, when the music dripped and pulsed and storytellers and criminals stood side by side telling their broken stories to an audience drunk, stupid, hungry for more?



Of course you want to go back. I do, too.

But here's the problem: WE CAN'T GO BACK.

Hell yeah it's fun to relive the Cuban Linx of old, but you don't want to get caught in that bear trap where your best days are behind you and all you can do is relive the good times. That just makes you sad and old, like a group of college grads at a kegger or a batch of old construction workers telling stories about fingering cheerleaders after high school football games.

This is the class of person Raekwon has aligned himself with now.

Don't get me wrong, I love OBFCL2. The shit bangs and thumps and rumbles. It's packed to the gills with detail oriented crime stories, boombam thump rap that'll put a spring in your stride, quotables (personal favorite comes from track two when Ghostface Killah spits "Our guns is chunky"), lyrical outbursts and top not production. But I love it the same way I love looking at signatures in my yearbooks: as distant reminders of past friends and better times. Sure, this album is awesome, but the fact remains that this is a continuation of an old idea en lieu of a new one.

So maybe I'm looking at this the wrong way. Maybe I should just be thankful OBFCL2 is as good as it is. Maybe I should just appreciate the fact that Raekwon can pick up his old lamp, blow the dust off and rub that fucker until the Clan and everything they stand / stood for sounds relevant again.

But a big part of me has a problem with this kind of record making. This, to me, seems like an admission that Rae has no where to go but down from here. This is the saddest kind of swan song: the kind from an artist who accepts his decline into the faded, faceless background of mediocrity and rather than scream into the darkness, coughs up a photocopied image of what once made them great.

Go buy Only Built For Cuban Linx Part 2. Listen to "House of Flying Daggers," the J-Dilla produced battle track that features three of the Clan's best throwing heat like they used to (and Inspechta Deck). Listen to the crime stories of "Cold Outside," "Penitentiary" and "Sonny's Missing" and appreciate them for their ability to put you at the scene and fill your head with images the way that great fiction always can. Listen to the mournful "Ason Jones" and the batshit crazy "We Will Rob You" and miss ODB for two totally separate reasons. Listen to "Gihad" and "New Wu," and realize that the year's best rap album is also the saddest.

Because that, in the end, is what Part 2 really is: A bittersweet victory. A successful last grasp. A beautiful, tragic goodbye of a banger.




Key Tracks:
House of Flying Daggers , Cold Outside, Gihad, New Wu, Penitentary, Ason Jones, Surgical Gloves, We Will Rob You, Kiss The Ring

Buy, Steal, Skip:
Buy

Saturday, October 10

An Introduction to Oblivion / The Fall Of Our Folk Heroes / American Starlets and Their Appetites for Destruction / Fear And Loathing Everywhere

You poor fuck. You think you know what's going on.

You don't have a fucking clue
.

Not that I blame you. You've got the Internet, a tool capable of providing you information at a rate so mind-bogglingly accelerated that if you were to describe it to a dandy from the 1950s, he or she would banish such a creation as a simple indulgence of science fiction and cock their eyes at you as an unbalanced interloper objecting on their golden era. You've got 24 hour news channels, beasts of horrible proportions that distort and conjure opinion and influence far more wide spread and far-reaching than any sane person care to admit.

You think, YOU THINK, you are informed. You are not.

You are simple. You are blissfully ignorant. You think that's a light at the end of the tunnel. It's not. Its the Broad Street Express line, and you are not at one of the scheduled stops. Prepare yourself to see the forest through the trees.

Brace yourself for the cold chrome impact of real truth.

A month ago, a document was delivered to me. A document with such staggering, shocking contents that it has taken me 30 days to process. 30 days, many drinks (MORE BEERS! BEERS FOR YEARS!) , many sleepless nights. I don't know why I was chosen. I usually like to leave the cloaks and daggers of politics to those cold and sstealy enough to wield them. I keep my focus on music, the stuff that really matters.

However, sometimes a man has to stand up and play his part. This is my cue to stand, this is my time to play.

And so, I reveal to you what has been revealed to me. I don't expect you to understand it. I don't expect you to come to grips with it. The act of revelation is enough. Understand is overrated. Simply being aware how little control you have, simply acknowledging how little you know, is the first step.

Without further ado, I present to you...

The Deep Dick Dossier.

-------------------

The Annual Ministry of General Mayhem Garden Party fell on Saturday the 22nd of 2009. This is the most sought after and high security social gathering of the year. The range of the guest list is as vast and convoluted as the mind of The Ministry’s self-appointed figurehead, and even more difficult to infiltrate.

The Guest List was as follows:

Grand Minister Adams (The Ministry of General Mayhem)
Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT)
Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
Attorney General Eric Holder
Tunde Adebimpe (Singer, TV on the Radio)
Rick Ross (?)
Gloria Steinem (Feminist Activist)
Robert Pattinson (Actor)
Unknown Peace Protester (Lawn Decoration)
President Hugo Chavez (Venezuela)
Kim Kardashian (Socialite)
The Dalai Lama

----------

The events of the evening revolve around continuous rounds of Beer Pong played over roughly a seven hour period. The evening begins at 9 PM sharp and is believed to last well past 4 AM.

GM Adams and Adebimpe are the first team of the evening, facing Leahy, who took a brief break from egging Jeff Sessions office, and partner Rick Ross who continuously baffles even the most dedicated listener, in the first round of the beer pong proceedings. Steinem in the foreground, who she’s conversing with is as of yet unclear.



Adams and Adebimpe entitle their team “AA” and prepare for their turn. In the foreground it is now clear that Steinem is conversing with Pattinson, star of the popular fledgling Twilight film series. He is known to appear on the covers of numerous magazines marketed toward adolescent girls. Something about him suggests he wouldn’t mesh well young children. But that’s pure speculation on my part.



Adebimpe is no longer Adams’ partner and Kucinich steps in. Kucinich seems to be more inebriated than others at this point in the evening. Adams is beginning to get a concerning look in his eye. Leahy in the foreground, now in Steinem’s seat. The wheelchair-bound anti-war demonstrator on the lawn is what it is. A truly sickeningly display, as manic as it is offensive. Surely Adams’ touch.



Kucinich has obviously abandoned sobriety.



Here things get especially interesting. There is an apparent familiarity here between Adams and Chavez, one corrupt official to another. I have yet to check with the Venezuelan diplomatic consulate but I believe we can safely assume that Chavez’ presence was unknown by the State Department. Not only is this illegal, but Chavez is one notch short of a national threat and already a well-known enemy of America.

So we have offense number one, a very large offense number one. This alone would be enough to hang him in the press. But there is more. Much, much more.




Sadly, for the common American observers, drugged on pop culture and numbed to the gravity of allowing dangerous libelous extremists like Adams to freely operate, this will most likely be what they latch on to.

And that’s fine, this time, as it is the second offense he has hanged himself with.
Kim Kardashian, highly visible socialite, daughter of deceased attorney Robert Kardashian and goddaughter of O.J. Simpson. Following her recent break-up, the latest of many, it had been rumored that she had become involved with Adams, but neither confirmed or denied it to the press.

That goes without question now.

This will surely do great damage to both of their public images.

Kardashian could never be forgiven this kind of conduct and her political affiliations will forever be identified as far left by her unfailingly centrist adoring public from now on. And Adams, the leftist organizer, the dashing young street fighter, on a self-righteous crusade to advance the liberal agenda, seen cavorting around with a reality show “celebutante” and certifiable party girl?

He has no chance now, he’s finished. Any and all street credentials he’s acquired will be forever lost to him now.



Whoever you are, I’m truly sorry that you must view this sick display. But it is essential to our cause. It is here that Adams’ lewd conduct with Kardashian, in full view of the other guests mind you, begins in all of its sordid glory.

Yes, it is here that the two forget themselves, or fully realize themselves, and Kardashian descends to presumably perform fellatio on Adams, outdoors, in full view of all in attendance.

This presumption is confirmed in the following picture.



His expression says it all.



And here lies the third and arguably gravest offense. While liberal guard dog Eric Holder stands nearby, His Holiness The Dalai Lama approaches Adams, appearing to be amused by the image on Adams’ t-shirt. Adams responds with a terrifying primal look of horror mixed with insanity.



Adams reveals unequivocally how inebriated, classless and uncaring he is, by exposing himself to The Dalai Lama, who scurries away, disgraced and terrified. Even Holder steps in to chastise the repugnant Grand Minister, who only grins back with glee, clearly remorseless and all together pleased with the madness and destruction he has caused.



The final photo is a summation of all that has come before. Adebimpe, The Grand Minister’s loyal friend, supports him and keeps him from hitting the ground. Adams looks like he’s going to be sick.

Kucinich is out of control.

---------

So what do we make of this?

Where do we turn when our heroes have failed us?

Where do we go when there is no country for men, both young and old?

When there is no law for men, men become lawless.

We turn in on ourselves. We must find the strength to carry on. We must use our fists and our mouths and our minds. If the top must fall, we shall fall with it, riding its burning pieces to the ground, dancing in the rubble around us, burning in beautiful agony together, once and for all.

We must SMASH THE MINISTRY!


Viva! Viva! Viva!






Sunday, October 4

I'm Drawing A..........BLANK! (Come On, Guys, Haven't You Seen Grosse Pointe Blank?

Artist: Amanda Blank
Album: I Love You

Comments: I've been wrestling with Only Built For Cuban Linx Pt 2 for a couple of weeks now, and quite honestly, I'm getting nowhere with it.

I've got this thing about me: for albums that I really love, I want to say something profound about them. I want my praise to be equal to their product. I want to be a small part of it, I guess: I want my work to be a reflection of how good their work is.

But fuck all that for now. For now, let's talk about an album that sucks. That album, of course, is Amanda Blank's I Love You.

Now, dig this shit, Okay? If you are a person who reads about music on the Internet...actually, fuck that. If you are a person who has at all been remotely plugged into popular culture in the last four years, you are familiar with M.I.A. Even if it's only for that totally kick ass, now totally played out hustler's anthem "Paper Planes."

Regardless of how or why, regardless of the depth or breath of said knowledge. You know about M.I.A. Odds are also good, if you are a fan, that you know about Santagold (Santigold? I'm not looking up the spelling. Fuck spelling.). AND, odds are good that if you know about Santa(i)gold, you might know about Diplo.

Diplo, to get to the point and make the last two paragraphs even more excessive, is the beat maker funk master brain child behind some of the best dance music of the last few years, M.I.A, Santigold and Major Lazer included.

He also, sadly, is responsible for Amanda Blank. Blank is a shitty lady-rapper who writes songs about fucking and slutting and occasionally feeling bad about it.

And, hey, that shit is fine by me. 90% of popular music is about fucking, and at least Blank has the sense to be honest and open about it. The problem is that, for a dance record about fucking, the album is both bad to dance to and totally not sexy.

Considering how good Diplo has been for dance music, production wise, its shocking how far he's missed the mark on I Love You. The beats are sparse and glammy, like Lady GaGa light with none of the inane catchiness. No good rhythms for shaking, no good melodies for grooving.

And with no backing to support her, Blank's amateurish lyrics fall even more flat. Here is every Amanda Blank song: I like to have sex / I will fuck you if you can get it / I am dirty / Fuck. Shit sound good to you? It's not. It's not even catchy, which is a cardinal sin in the world of frivolous fuck-music.

There's one good song. I can't really defend why I like it, but I do. It's called "Make Up," and it is pure post-ironic, post-modern dance sleaze, totally indefensible and unforgivable and brilliant. Check it out, but it's the only song worth digging.



I Love You is bad. Sorry, Blank. I love Philly and its music scene, but your album did not move me.

Amanda Blank - Make Up

Key Tracks: Make Up

Buy, Steal, Skip: Skip

Tuesday, September 22

Please, Major Lazer! Don't Hurt Us!


Artist: Major Lazer
Album: Guns Don't Kill People, Lazers Do

Just take a look at that album cover and try to tell me you don't want this record.

Jesus Christ, when is the last time someone made a dance record like this one? For all the scatting and beeboping those lousy skinny jean wearing fucks down in Brooklyn have been doing for the past few years, no one has taken as many chances or made as crazy-assed a dance record as Diplo and Switch have with Guns Don't Kill People...Lazers Do. Sure, they're pretty much just watering down Jamaican-style Dance Hall music, but that shit NEEDS watering down! And, not for nothing, filling the album with actual Jamaican artists instead of a dickload of American stars is...well...mad decent.



I know you want to dance, you motherfuckers. I can see it in your eyes. The music just isn't moving you, I get it. If that's the case, get your sweaty meathooks on this album. It is all at once like no other dance music you've ever heard and instantly like every other club track in the world. It is the Alpha and Omega. It is ubiquity realized in the form of Avalanches-like sound manipulation and Beanie Man-style island thump. And if those references don't make sense to you, then it sounds like Santigold if Santigold took a bunch of speed and knew a goddamn thing about production.

Don't resist Major Lazer. The sooner you bow to your new vampire fighting, bazooka-armed, jet-powered surf board riding master of rhythm, the better.

Also, I can't embed it here, but check out this video for Pon De Floor' (NSFW on account of dry humping. See, you want this album, don't you?).


Key Tracks:
Hold The Line, Lazer Theme, Pon De Floor', Baby

Buy, Skip, Steal:
BUY

Major Lazer - When You Hear The Bassline (Ft. Miss Thing)

Wednesday, August 5

Let's Put on Some Owen and Gaze Longingly Into Each Other's Eyes, Holding Each Other in a Neverending Embrace as we Drift into Dream....Together...

Artist: Owen
Album: The Seaside EP

Comments: Emotional people of the world, rejoice! There is a new Owen EP out!

Ok, so being a Cap n' Jazz super fan, I am contractually obligated to like The Seaside EP, the latest release from Mike Kinsella, the once (and future? Please?) drummer of the seminal Chicago spaz-punk outfit. While I love the Jazz for their atypical song structures and genre-defining vocal delivery, I like Owen because it's nice music to take a nap to.

This seven song EP is more of the same from Kinsella. Softy strummed acoustic guitar, elongated, occasionally whispered vocals, lyrics about self doubt, sadness, relationships and...uh...overbites. While the songs are all straight-up emo for people who still love Garden State and kids who still really, really, REALLY believe in love, the EP is not without its quiet charms and good humor (the goofy cover of Xtreme's "More Than Words," for example).

The Seaside is a must have for mopey, self-defeating people everywhere. It makes for the perfect soundtrack to a pity party. And if you don't hate yourself, Owen is very good night time background music. Good shit to take a nap to.

Maybe I'm just an apologist or an obsessive or whatever, and I feel the need to support any side project / offshoot of one of my favorite bands. Maybe I'm just a dude with too much loud music who needs to unwind with something soft and quiet every now and again. Maybe I'm just a big pussy. Either way, The Seaside is another nice EP in an already nice career. If you can focus less on what is being said and more on how its being said, Owen can be as comfortable as a warm blanket. Just don't go in looking for verbal poetry ("You fucked a fever in me / and I'm burning up" on "A Fever." Gross).

A dude with a guitar, earnestly singing songs about feelings with a soft, soothing voice. Fuck else you want me to say?


And here is come Cap'n Jazz, post-hardcore and emo pioneers. Get into it!



Listen to MORE!

Tuesday, July 28

100 Best Rap Songs Ever: #73 Kanye West ft. Mos Def and Freeway - Two Words

Artist: Kanye West ft Mos Def, Freeway and the Harlem Boys Choir
Song: Two Words
Album: The College Dropout
Year: 2004

Comments: From "Through the Wire" to "Jesus Walks," from "New Workout Plan" to "Spaceship," The College Dropout has no shortage of hits. However, five years after Kanye West's career-starting classic dropped, no track has as much replay value as "Two Words," a track that still sounds fresh half a decade after the fact.

Mos Def opens the track with more focus and confidence than anything he's had since Black on Both Sides (although I hear The Eclectic is a stellar return to form. More on that later), delivering his quick syllables with air-tight flow. West, never a strong lyricist, submits one of his best Dropout verses here, doing his best to stand up with the star power on the the track. If the track has a downside, it is the lack of Freeway, who only gets 12 bars but still finds a way to compare himself Steven Seagal and threatens to turn haters into Olympic athlete Jackie Joyner Kersee. Seriously, we all need more Freeway.

And, of course, the beat is fucking bananas.




more about "Kanye West - Two Words (feat. Mos Def...", posted with vodpod

Monday, July 27

Secondhand Sounds from Scrambles Superhero


Artist: Bomb The Music Industry!
Album: Others! Others!
One Liner: Covers, singles and online-only tracks for long time fans of BTMI!.

Comments: B-side collections need to be held to a different set of standards than regular records. A listener has to go into the album with a different mindset, knowing that the tracks will not be as cohesive or complete as they would be on a regular album.

It should also go without saying that B-side collections are usually for die hard super fans only. There is no B-sides album that I would recommend as a good place for a listener to start learning about a band (some folks might argue Etc. by Jawbreaker, but those people are idiots. Incidentally, if you are interested in getting into Jawbreaker, I recommend starting with 24 Hour Revenge Therapy).

So with that in mind, if you are a fan of DIY punk or have an established Bomb The Music Industry! fetish or just like free music, you should download yourself a free copy of BTMI's Others! Others!.

Others! bundles BTMI's 7-inch tracks with some Myspace.com only gems into one free collection of songs that were not good enough to show up on actual BTMI releases. Fans will be familiar with some cuts, like "All Alone in my Big Empty Apartment" and "This is a Singalong." Both tracks, demos here, were featured more fleshed out and, quite frankly, better on other releases.

While there are some quick little charmers on Others! ("Come On, This Shit is Getting RIDICULOUS" in particular), the main attraction here are the covers. BTMI has always been enthusiastic in it's covers, and having a bunch of them all in one place is nice. The band goes all ska-mitzva on Pavement's "Gold Soundz," and turns in a shockingly faithful cover of We Versus the Shark's "This Graceless Planet." The gold star, however, goes to the synth-ed out cover of Andrew Jackson Jihad's hilarious and charming "Little Brother," a surefire candidate for song of the year.

For first timers, there are much better places to start with BTMI (Scrambles or Get Warmer, for example), and the most obsessive of fans will probably already have most of these tracks already. For the rest of us, however, there are enough charming tracks to make Others! Others! worth the hard drive space.




Key Tracks:
This Graceless Planet, Come on, This Shit is Getting RIDICULOUS, Little Brother

Download the album here from Quote Unquote Records

Tuesday, July 7

We Believe in Nothfink, Lebowski! We Cut Off Your JOHNSTON!

This review appears on Noripcord.

Artist: Future of the Left
Album: Travels With Myself and Another

Comments: It seems like everyone uses keyboards these days, but not the way that Future of the Left uses them.

Matt and Kim use keyboards to form one half of their quick, cute pop songs for teenagers.

Mates of State use them to write lullabies.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs use them so people have music to do coke to.

Franz Ferdinand use them so people have music to fuck to.

Future of the Left, however, uses keyboards to punish, to pummel. It's keyboards, like it's guitars, bass and vocals, don't so much pluck or hum as they do howl and snarl. It's keyboards are not instruments, they are weapons.

From top to bottom, Travels With Myself and Another is one of the toughest albums of the year. The bass is distorted and low, growling like a bear and strong enough to crumble pavement. The guitars buzz, not with the clean metallic sound of a saw but with the panicked chaos of an angry swarm of bees. Lyrics, for the most part, are screamed from the center of an angry chest, except when they are spat, bitterly and sarcastically, through a knowing sneer.

And as for the keyboards, they are used sparingly and only on the most accessible of tracks. Even then, they sound broken and used, like something a robot organ-grinder would use to make a man dance.

There's a scene in The Big Lebowski where Tara Reid explains that the passed-out German in the pool below her is a nihilist. "He doesn't believe in anything," she says, before offering to suck Jeff Bridges' cock. Future of the Left is the same: it believes in nothing, but rather than float idle in a pool, it is laughing in the faces of the followers, sounding smarter and having more fun in their max-volume, full-throated atheism than most people find in their religions or love.

Love? Fuck love. "I'm on a mercy mission / to prove to my new love / that she is my nothing / that she is my no one...that even these triumphs are empty," lead singer Andy Falkous informs the listener on "Lapse Catholics," one of Travel's finest tracks. The song is a 4 minute burn that boasts the album's best riff along with lyrics that jump seamlessly from Morgan Freeman to the Devil, dripping with wit and obnoxious cleverness.

Falkous doesn't exactly write lyrics as much as he writes conversations and inside jokes. Characters and settings are introduced but given no context, resulting in the kind of screaming schizophrenic songwriting that one might expect from a deranged John Darnielle. The words are compelling despite their lack of clarity, and even with all the ambiguity there are plenty of self-explanatory one liners ("Re-imagine God as just a mental illness / looming toward the end of our days" on "The Hope That House Built" or "The while man claims that he's in love / does anybody doubt him?" on "Yin / Post-Yin").

And, while this has nothing to do with the music, the song titles themselves are pretty funny. Album highlight: "Stand By Your Manatee", although "You Need Satan More Than He Needs You" is pretty good, too.

By no means a feel-good record, Travels With Myself and Another is rich with enough black humor, sharp perspectives and tight muscular music to make it one of the best rock of albums of the year. Think of it as comfort food for the condemned: if everyone is going to die, might as well laugh along with Future of the Left.



Note: I don't love this song, but it is the only quality video I could find for the new album. Plus, sideburns!

Key Tracks: Lapse Catholics, Arming Eritrea, Throwing Bricks at Trains, Yin / Post-Ying

Buy, Steal, Skip: Buy

Wednesday, June 24

Dancing On The Corpse's Ashes

Artist: The Mars Volta
Album: OctahedronAdd Image

Comments: The Mars Volta are the most polarizing band of my lifetime. No other group has caused so much mindless devotion and vehement hatred in my quarter century on earth. It is either loved and praised for its mind-bending amalgamation of genres and sounds, or reviled and hated for it's self indulgent tendencies passed off as progression. There is no middle ground: everyone falls into one of these two camps.

I, along with anyone else raised on bare bones punk rock, I suspect, fall into the second group of fans who wish that Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriquez-Lopez would hurl themselves off a cliff (or wish, at least, that they had stopped with At The Drive In).

That being said, each Mars Volta album has always been able to spark some interest, generate some small good will. Despite all the dissonance, the gibberish, the swirling, meaningless clouds of noise for noises' sake, the endless bullshit of it all, each album has always had some redeeming quality. Be it fragmented pockets of actual songwriting (“Ciatraz ESP,” “Drunkship of Lanterns” off Deloused in the Comatorium), snippets of interesting guitar work (a number of songs off Frances the Mute) or the band just cutting through their progressive title and simply kicking some ass ("Goliath" off last year's The Bedlam in Goliath), TMV have always been at least marginally interesting, at least to the point that an album would warrant a handful of listens.

And then there was Octahedron, the band's latest album.

It's hard to pin down exactly what is so repulsive about this record. I mean, it sounds fine, which is to say it sounds like every other Mars Volta record: hyper active drums, ethereal guitars, bad high school poetry style lyrics delivered in a goofy falsetto, massive breakdowns of meaningless sound.

What's lacking here is any kind of interest. Octahedron sounds like a band going through the motions, making music out of obligation and not inspiration. Every note, every movement, every single element of every single song comes off as lazy and uninspired. It is as if the band said “Fuck it, this is good enough,” and released the first thing that came to mind. If the guys themselves can't even muster up some excitement, what are we listeners supposed to do?

Its as if the band can't even muster the energy to try and write new songs. Album opener “Since We've Been Wrong” sounds like a second-rate “The Widow.” “Teflon” plays like any track off Amputechture. Some bands write the same song over and over again because its all they know, but TMV have proved themselves talented enough to progress, even within their own brand of shitty “progressive rock.” This is not some pop-punk band using the only three chords they know. This band can do better, has done better. This is laziness.

Maybe I am being closed minded. I've already admitted that I don't like the band. Its possible that I am just totally missing the point, and Octahedron is a masterwork of rock so far above my head all I can do is bad mouth it. Still, every other Mars Volta album has jumped out at me at least once. This album passes by without a single interesting note, without one thing to engage a causal listener, devoid of anything worth going back to.

In a recent interview, Bixler-Zavala and Rodriquez-Lopez talk about a possible At The Drive In reunion, calling such a thing unlikely given the amount of material they still want to make as The Mars Volta. Octahedron makes that claim extremely hard to believe. This is kind of album bands put out before a break up.



Key Tracks: Since We've Been Wrong, Teflon

Buy, Steal, Skip: Skip

Tuesday, June 16

100 Best Rap Songs Ever: #35

Artist: Wu Tang Clan
Song: Triumph
Album: Forever
Year:
1997
Italic
Comments: 36 Chambers is, for my money, one of the top 10 rap albums of all time, and probably high on the list of "Best Debut Albums." Forever is not nearly as good, but it does feature what might be their best song in "Triumph," a hookless banger of a track that finds ever member of the Clan absolutly killing it (except for OBD, who plays hype man).

Pay special attention to Method Man (second verse), U-God spitting waaaaaaaay above his usual ability (forth verse), RZA being his usual werid self (fifth verse) and Ghostface Killah taking a shit on Masta Killa by starting his verse with "Hey yo, fuck that!" (seconf to last verse). Try and listen to this song without getting amped. You won't be able to.

And, not for nothing, but how awesome is this video?



BONUS VIDEO (To make up for the lack of ODB on "Triumph")

Tuesday, June 2

100 Best Rap Songs Ever: #67

Artist: Clipse
Song: Grindin'
Album: Lord Willin'
Year: 2002

Its The Return Of The...Oh, Wait...Not Really

This review appears on No Ripcord.

Artist: Eminem
Album: Relapse

Comments: Despite all the negative things I am about to say about Relapse, there are two very important points that must be kept in mind.

1) From a technical standpoint, Eminem is the best rapper alive. Better than Lil Wayne, better than Jay-Z, better than any backpacker, underground, grime or regional act anywhere else in the world. His flow, delivery, internal rhymes and complex structure will always be more important that his content, and in these areas he is without rival.

2) Relapse is, by a wide margin, the man's best album since The Eminem Show.

Those facts established, let's talk some shit, eh?

Controversy played an enormous part in Eminem's success in the late '90s. In fact, one could argue that shock was the main factor to his meteoric rise, more so than his talent, his production or his skin color. Considering his fall from the public eye thanks to diminishing releases and a four-year absence from rapping, it is not surprising that Relapse leans heavily on the scare tactics. The rapper downs bottles of pills, kills everyone in a McDonald's, jerks off to Hannah Montana and drinks his cousin's bathwater. All on the first track.

The difference here lies in what is behind the words and not the words themselves. Sure, Eminem's albums have always been twisted, violent affairs. However, the mania on previous albums was fueled by an almost palpable anger, a desperate search for some kind of peace through ultra-violence. And while tracks like "Underground" and "Beautiful" are powered by this same intensity, the vast majority of the album's tracks are little more than gross-out jokes.

Speaking of jokes, odds are good that by the time this review hits the web, "We Made You" will have been played over 10 times in a single day on most mainstream FM stations. Clearly this track is an attempt to re-create the angry frat humor aimed at pop culture that served Em so well in the past ("The Real Slim Shady", "My Name Is"). This song and the album at large miss the mark in this respect as well. I have a theory that in this modern age of hyper-fast celebrity news turnaround, such songs like this cannot work any more. It would certainly explain why jabs at Lindsey Lohan, Kim Kardashian and Sarah Palin cause more eye rolls than chuckles.

More likely, however, is that Eminem has lost the fire. His first albums were, as he was quick to point out, combative middle fingers aimed at everyone and everything that pushed against him. Now he's making albums about recovering from addiction, sounding worn out and uninspired. Dude needs to find a muse or something.

"I may be done with rap / I need a new outlet," Em raps on "Beautiful." I hope it doesn't come to that. Even at his worst, Eminem is worlds more talented than anyone else rapping today. When he's on, like on "Crack a Bottle", "Stay Wide Awake" and the other previously highlighted songs, he is a titan. Relapse is billed as a return to form, but it plays more like a departure note.



Key Tracks: Underground, Beautiful, Crack a Bottle, Stay Wide Awake

Buy, Steal, Skip: Steal

Monday, June 1

Dan Deacon Gets His Empire Strikes Back On With More Serious Second Album

This review appears on No Ripcord

Artist: Dan Deacon
Album: Bromst

Comments: Time is a son of a bitch. It robs us of our bodies, minds and good looks. It takes our friends from us. But perhaps most damagingly, it alters our view of the past. The further detached we are from events, the more blurred they become in our memory, which leads to broad strokes of emotion in place of and accurate recalling of events. Right now, I am 23 years old with no job, no health care, no car and less than 1,000 dollars in the bank. This is undeniably a shitty time in my life. And yet, I am sure that a few years from now, I will look back on this as a "golden age of my early 20s" where I "found myself" and "discovered what I really want to be."

This same principal applies in music. When Dan Deacon's first record came out in the summer of 2007, I originally claimed it was silly, fun music for silly, fun people. Since then, however, my view has shifted and distorted the album into some kind of electronica classic, a high water mark for the genre and as essential an album as The Blue Album, The Lonesome Crowded West or Doolittle. I look at that album now less as a fun record of goofy experiments and more as serious art that strives to push forward. By looking back through rose-colored glasses, I've forgotten what attracted me to that album in the first place, the fact that it was fun, easily accessible electronica for anyone with a pair of dancing shoes and a sense of humor.

Time is fucking me again. It's been two months since Bromst was released and odds are good that if you are reading this website you have already formed an opinion on it. The record has received tons of positive press, and the general take on it is that it is a big step forward for Deacon, one that establishes him as a serious, mature artist. As if there was something wrong with making music with a sense of humor in the first place.

And so, we have Bromst, an album that does indeed show signs of Deacon taking his music seriously, but at the expense of what initially made him great. His skills as an arranger and sequencer are as strong as ever. The album's opener "Build Voice" is a prime example of this, almost as if the track is nothing more than a warm up exercise for the rest of the album. The slow fade in of theme, the addition of melody, the development and exposition, the breakdown, the final crescendo: the track is a blue print, a note to other, lesser artists explaining "This is how it is done, this is the way the pros do it." The track itself isn't nearly as interesting as what it seems to say.

In an effort to grow up his sound, Deacon has introduced new noises to his normal pallet of 8-bit video game midis and Saturday morning cartoon blasts of colorful notes. Bells, horns and unaltered human voices are just some of the new, more mainstream effects that he uses to create his music. Of course, calling Deacon mainstream is like calling the Mojave desert a nice summer vacation spot. Deacon still deals in spastic bursts of fuzzed out dance music with a manic communal feel, but the fun doesn't come as easily this time around. "Red F," "Padding Ghost," "Woof Woof," and "Get Older" all strive for that Spiderman of the Rings feel. Only "Woof Woof," with its barking dog samples, achieves the same level of exuberance. "Baltihorse" and "Surprise Stefani" find Deacon taking a shot a slower, more restrained songwriting, and though these tracks do eventually grow after repeat listens, casual fans may not stick around long enough to be drawn in.

While the album lacks a powerhouse number like Spiderman's "Wham City," Bromst boasts two of Deacon's finest tracks in "Snookerd" and "Of The Mountains." The songs are placed next to each other on the album, and they embody every good thing that Deacon does. They are layered and arranged beautifully, each song working together to create a 15+ minute anthem that rises, falls, swells and sways with a weight and beauty that modern pop music so rarely achieves. Classically arranged, professionally rendered and lovingly created, these two songs are as close to symphony as any electronica artist has ever come, and stand as Deacon's finest work to date.

It is in moments like the final chorus of "Snookerd," or in the whistle-lead breakdown during "Of The Mountains" that maturity looks best on Deacon. Those moments show that when he puts his mind to it, Deacon can advance his music while retaining the sense of fun that made him such a hit in the first place. Bromst is not as immediately enjoyable as its predecessor, but that's OK. Deacon is out to be your new favorite artist, not just some flash in the pan. Time fucks with everyone, and I am sure I will look back at this album differently two years from now, but right now, Bromst is an excellent followup to a slightly more-excellent debute, and proof that Deacon is here to stay.



Key Tracks: Snookered, Of The Mountains, Woof Woof, Build Voice

Buy, Steal, Skip: Buy