Thursday, August 29, 2013

Paul McCartney's "New" Sound is a Lot Like His Old Sound

Do you remember when Panic at the Disco decided to shed their emo roots and make music that ripped off was inspired by the Kinks and the Beatles? No? That’s definitely for the best, but since my local supermarket played a few of those songs every single day for about two years I can never forget that terrible chapter in a terrible band’s history.

Unfortunately, all of those memories came back to the surface when I heard “New,” the new single from Paul McCartney’s upcoming album of the same name. The Mark Ronson production is clearly trying to ape the brighter tracks on Revolver and the less psychedelic ones on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but the song achieves the same quality as Panic at the Disco’s ill-advised move into nostalgia. Not that I would expect Paul McCartney to make thoroughly modern sounding music; at 71, he’s not going to be on the cutting edge of anything. His last album of original music, 2007’s Memory Almost Full, had some pretty good tunes on it, so there was hope that he still had some good music in him. Yet considering how spotty his solo career has been, from the low points of most of the Wings catalog to his Kisses on the Bottom covers album from last year, I really should know better than to get too excited about a latter-day Paul McCartney record.

But he’s still Paul McCartney, and when an artist of his caliber completely shifts into autopilot and begins putting out assembly line facsimiles of his classic work and expects people to get excited then it’s time to give up on that artist.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Danny Brown, the Rap Game David Ruffin

Danny Brown is the new Ol’ Dirty Bastard, but not in the sense that he really sounds anything like the late great Wu-Tang rapper. He’s the new ODB because like Dirt McGirt he is completely original, totally unhinged, debauched, and defiantly weird at every turn. There is no father to his style. Fitting then that his new single is titled “ODB.” Unsurprisingly, he made sure to bring his A-game when name-checking Big Baby Jesus, and he absolutely destroys Paul White’s eerie prog rock beat. At this point White has earned his place among the best psychedelic beat makers of all time, and his instrumental opus Paul White & The Purple Brain has remained in rotation for the last three years. We’ll all be blessed if he has more beats on OLD, which will also feature Freddie Gibbs, Schoolboy Q, A$AP Rocky, Purity Ring, SKYWALKR, Charli XCX, A-Trak, and Rustie. To top things off, Ruff Mercy, the best rap video director out right now, made a suitably trippy video to accompany the song. But even without Ruff Mercy videos or Paul White beats, Brown is still the drug-crazed visionary we’ve come to expect since XXX. Bitch, he’s David Ruffin in ruffles, no stuffing, bundles of Peruvian snow with his shirt tucked in. May he never change.

OLD is out on September 30.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Review: Power Trip - Manifest Decimation

I don’t know much about thrash metal. I bought a copy of Master of Puppets in the fifth grade after a friend’s older brother turned me on to the record, but my thrash education stalled there. I eventually heard Reign in Blood for the first time more than ten years later, and I’ve heard Kill ‘Em All once or twice, but other than that I still haven’t made it through thrash 101. My metal tastes tend to run doomier or dronier, at least to the point where I don’t seek out new thrash records. Seeing the ghastly cover of Manifest Decimation, painted by Paolo “Madman” Girardi, compelled me to make an exception with Power Trip’s debut album.[1] Knowing that the record came out on Southern Lord, home of many of the best metal bands around right now, definitely helped pique my interest as well.

Power Trip does not disappoint. Throughout a lean thirty-five minutes, the Dallas band runs through the gamut of eighties thrash styles. This is admittedly a small gamut, but the band is able to make the most of a limited framework. Indeed, the best songs on Manifest Decimation are the ones that don’t deviate much from a thrash circa 1986 blueprint at all: speed; harsh, punky vocals; and shredding for shredding’s sake. Nearly every song here makes me feel like a Reagan-era maladjusted teenager in a suburban basement who’s just a little too angry for Black Flag.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Parquet Courts - "You've Got Me Wondering Now"

Parquet Courts have been having a good year (that’s an understatement). Their second album Light Up Gold is probably the best rock album of 2013 so far, and their live shows have been consistently incredible. At Lincoln Hall in July, a fifty-something guy in the audience drunkenly told me that the band’s performance made him feel something he hadn’t felt since a Dead Milkmen show in the mid-eighties. I’m inclined to believe that that wasn’t just the alcohol talking.

Now they’re prepping the release of a new EP Tally All the Things That You Broke and have released its first song. “You’ve Got Me Wonderin’ Now” has been making its way into their sets lately (they played it at that Lincoln Hall show and I’m 90% sure they played it at the Pitchfork Festival too), and it continues the band’s winning streak. Andrew Savage handles vocals on this one, and he not too surprisingly prefers toothache, seasickness, and sunburn to heartache, heartsickness, and heartburn. Parquet Courts is sitting among the wittiest bands in rock at the moment, and they’ve maintained their high lyrical standard here with the same casual demeanor that marked Light Up Gold. A recorder solo battling the noisy guitars pushes the song from good to great.

The Tally All the Things You Broke EP will be out on October 8 on What’s Your Rupture?

Wiley is Back Where He Wants to Be

Considering his stature in mid-aughts British music and his towering legacy over the entire grime movement, the diminishing returns that have been the hallmark of Wiley’s career for the last six or seven years have been depressing to say the least. He moved away from grime with his eye on the charts, and the results have been mostly unmemorable or outright bad middle-of-the-road trifles. Now, perhaps sensing that grime was fertile ground again with artists like Flowdan, Kahn, Dahlia Black, Unknown Shapes, and many others redefining the parameters of the genre and incorporating advances in dubstep and other electronic styles, Wiley decided that the time was right for a return to his roots. “I’m back where I wanna be” is the song’s hook. Now that he finally wants to be back where he has always belonged, and every other grime emcee better watch their backs.

Ruff Mercy, who has previously directed and animated incredible videos for Blu (“GNG BNG”) and Dahlia Black (“Fuck a Rap Song”), handled the video for “Flying.” With little more than flashes of crude simple animation over a black and white (and occasionally red) video of Wiley rapping, he’s managed to distill grime’s sonic qualities into visual form. Energy shoots off in every direction at unexpected intervals like a plasma globe, and the video seems like it could collapse at any moment from overstimulation.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Future Rap Dispatches from Some Guy's Living Room Floor

Jonwayne’s Cassette 3, Zeroh’s Bred: A Dedication, and Jeremiah Jae’s Bad Jokes are all in heavy rotation as I get pulled further into the headspace of the LA Boiler Room/Brainfeeder hip-hop excursions. Reviews of at least one of those projects is forthcoming, but in the meantime, here are three Boiler Room performances from some guy in Highland Park’s living room. At this time there appears to be no more exciting place to be a hip-hop fan than on that dude’s couch.

Zeroh shouts out the God Joni Mitchell. The Koreatown Oddity raps through a rubber wolf mask and no one seems to notice that it isn’t his real face. Jonwayne lumbers around casually slaying wack MCs. Azizi Gibson sounds like he’s sneering like no one has since Bill Idol circa 1982. Open Mike Eagle plays the role of wise elder at the age of 32. Mndsgn weaves together a mix of beats from beyond the solar system. People walk up and take the mic when they feel like rapping. For an environment that seems completely uncompetitive, everyone is rapping like their lives depended on it.

Parquet Courts & Savages at Lincoln Hall 7/18/2013: A Brief Live Review

Note: This was originally intended to run at back in July but I got tied up covering the Pitchfork Festival and had some problems with the photos so that didn't happen. I decided to put it up here a month late instead.

For the second year in a row, Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis have brought the Sound Opinions experience to Lincoln Hall and taped two shows live in front of a packed audience. After nabbing Japandroids and Ty Segall last year, they’ve really outdone themselves by booking Parquet Courts and Savages—who have given us the two best rock records of the year so far—in advance of their spots the Pitchfork Music Festival this Saturday. The interview/performance/interview/performance format could definitely have dragged, but both bands were game for the interviews (with the exception of Savages drummer Fay Milton, who skipped the interview in favor of her exhaustive warm-up regimen). In their interview, Parquet Courts were everything you would expect from their breakout second album Light Up Gold: funny, quick, a bit prickly, and probably pretty stoned. When it came time for them to perform, it’s kind of amazing that they didn’t blow out any of the speakers as they doubled the intensity of all of their songs, debuted a few new ones, and displayed an ability to jam that isn’t present on their concise, bare bones records. I’ve never worn earplugs to a show before, and this is the closest I’ve ever come to regretting that choice.

Spray Cans Vol. 013: Ground Floor - "Dig on That" b/w "One, Two"

Ground Floor - "Dig on That" b/w "One, Two" (Bandoola Records, 1994)
Ground Floor is a complete mystery. T.O., ManHunt, and a third rapper whose name seems to have been forgotten surfaced just long enough to put out one limited single before disappearing forever. All that remains of the group are a few rare copies of that 12”, an entertaining but generic music video for “One, Two,” and a Bandoola Records flyer advertising their forthcoming EP. Everything beyond that is open to conjecture and there doesn’t seem to be any photos of the group online. How did they hook up with Lord Finesse (and what was Lord Finesse doing on a tiny indie label with only one other artist when he was at his peak)? Why weren’t they able to capitalize on the momentum from the “One, Two” video getting played on BET’s Rap City? What’s Puff Daddy doing in that video?[1] And most importantly, who were they, why didn’t they take off, and where did they go?

Being from Newport, Rhode Island probably didn’t do any favors for the group. It’s only three hours away from New York City, but in an era before the internet, being from a city without a well-known hip-hop scene could be the kiss of death for a group that wasn’t able to break through immediately.[2] Newport very well could have had a vibrant scene at the time, but if they did, it wasn’t exactly getting much coverage in The Source.