Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek
Some may have forgotten about Talib Kweli, who, along with the charismatic Mos Def, was responsible for the critically acclaimed album Black Star.
His solo debut, Reflection Eternal, showcases his lyrical abilities and the production talents of his partner Hi-Tek. Reflection Eternal also allows listeners to step away from the norm and hear that rap music isn’t just about luxury cars, money, drugs and scandalous women.
From the bumpin’ bass heavy grooves of “Move Somethin” to the battle raps of “Down For The Count,” featuring Rah Digga and Xzibit, the album is a pleasure to listen to.
There are a variety of other songs pleasing to the ear. Peep the street tale “Ghetto Afterlife” with Kool G. Rap, the De La Soul combo, “Soul Rebels,” and “Love Language,” with Les Nubians providing the hook in French, in which he discusses the love-hate relationship between men and women. You’ll see how proficient he is in making substantial collaborations.
Talib Kweli could work on laying down a better flow and delivery, but he makes up for his deficiencies with strong lyrical content and the ability to make listeners “stretch” their minds, something a lot of rap artists fail to accomplish today.
Known as one of the most underrated groups in hip-hop, Brooklyn, N.Y. natives M.O.P. (Mash Out Posse) have aggressively rhymed their way towards respect in the mainstream music scene.
Although their latest album, Warriorz, is their fourth release, M.O.P. is generally unknown to outsiders of the world of underground hip-hop. The duo of Billy Danz (a.k.a. William Berkowitz) and Lil’ Fame (a.k.a. Fizzy Womack), while not the most lyrical of emcees, have the ability to convey their raw emotion and aggressive nature in a way that would sound comical if used by other rappers.
For the first time, an M.O.P. album has actually created a buzz, with their first single, “Ante Up,” which has become a street anthem.
Additional production from the likes of the legendary DJ Premier, arguably the best producer in hip-hop today, Warriorz showcases Fame and Danz’s improved lyrical skills. After being unappreciated for so long, this could be the album that finally transforms M.O.P. from consistent underground favorites to mainstream successes.
The deranged rap duo, Twiztid is back with their second album Freek Show. On Freek Show, the protégés of the Insane Clown Posse give a follow up performance that fails in comparison to their first album.
The outrageous pair, scarily obsessed with serial killers, brings eighteen contorted tracks to Freek Show. ICP appears throughout the album lending guest vocals to many tracks. “Maniac Killa” expresses the ax murderer attitude of Twiztid, while “Wut Tha Dead Like” shows their juggalo style.
“Do You Really Know?” is filled with deep vocals and tons of bass, while “Mutant X” and “We Don’t Die” rely on their violence fetishes. “People Are Strange” is the slow song of the album, but keeps pace with Twiztid’s fast paced work.
“Fuck on the 1st date” is a song guaranteed to stir emotions. “Broken Wingz” stands as the top song, telling the tale of an angel with broken wings.
Despite a mediocre returning album, Twiztid remains one of Detroit’s top performers and is a show you can’t miss! Twiztid will perform at the Trocadero on Dec. 5.
After such a lovely beginning, it’s a shame to watch this disc take a quick dive into monotony.
“Resonant Magnetic Source” is built around a sample of an angelic choir, with dark and trancy synth lines, and random noises and sound effects. It sounds like Bill Leeb’s
Delerium, and it’s great.
From there, the album takes a turn for the worse into 13 monotonous, repetitious, spooky tracks with all the personality of a Halloween sound effects disc. If there are vocals, they are so drenched in effects that they just wind up sounding like an instrument and not a person. Their repetitive nature does not help: “Radiomorphism 1+” repeats
the phrase “Come to light, oh come to death!” an ungodly number of times.
Occasionally, as on “Suffocations” an operatic voice will appear, giving a slight sense of interest to these unmemorable songs. It’s almost more worthwhile to get the album for the sadistic H.R. Gieger / Joel-Peter Witkin- esque photographs in the liner rather than the musical content.
If I Could Only Fly
(Anti / Epitaph)
The first thing you hear on If I Could Only Fly is Merle Haggard lamenting about “Watchin’ while some old friends are doin’ lines.” Johnny Cash first popularized the dark side of country music over 30 years ago, and this album gracefully follows that tradition.
The songs are very well crafted. The outstanding title track begins with a verse featuring an acoustic guitar as the sole accompaniment to Haggard’s gruff voice, before the song is punctuated by slight drumming, piano and harmonica.
Other songs, like “Honky Tonk Mama” and the Cash-esque “Bareback” have a 1940’s Blues / Jazz sound thanks to their lo-fi production.
Thankfully, Haggard employs one of the most overlooked and endearing aspects of Cash’s style on this too-short disc. “Turn To Me,” with its twangy slide guitar and heartfelt lyrics, evokes pure sweetness and sentimentality.
The man in black would be proud.
If there’s one thing that what’s-his-name from Aphex Twin understood, it was how to throw weird, irritating stuff into the mix without actually being irritating. On their second album, Manchester mouse-clickers Jega have not yet learned how to walk this fine, fine line. Clearly self-conscious about their ambient tendencies, they try to compensate with a jarring series of Commodore 64-worthy blips and bleeps. The result, at least for the still not fully D+B-schooled Matador-listening demographic, is interesting but, at points, truly unpleasant. Hopefully Matador will not someday regret their forays into electronica the same way that Kiss probably does their disco period.
The Point At Which It Falls Apart
Ten years ago, Depeche Mode released Violator, an innovative conglomeration of moody synthesizers and an uppity pop sound…a combo that influenced the course of both mainstream and underground music.
Their tradition is still carried on- in the mainstream by bands like Sunna and Stabbing Westward, and in the underground by bands like Mesh. Arguably the most accessible release Metropolis has ever put out, this fantastic twelve tracker shows a great influence from their forefathers while still traveling its own path.
“I Fall Over” is a wonderful combo of a soaring high end synth line and a wah-wah bass end synth line, with a great hi-hat beat carrying the song.
“People Like Me With This Gun” and “Needle In A Bruise” are reminiscent of Faith And Devotion-era Depeche Mode, employing more of a rock sound with their spacey keys and flanged guitars.
But one of the disc’s finest moments is “My Saddest Day,” with its slow acoustic guitar line, synth strings, and minimal beats, delivering melancholy vibes to the utmost. Beautiful.
The Mountain Goats
The Coroner’s Gambit
John Darnielle formed the Mountain Goats with ex-bassist/back-up singer Rachel Ware in the early 90s. The band’s “lo-fi” recording methods, unconventional singing style and poetic lyrics made for a truly unique sound. Over the next ten years, the Goats released a plethora of cassettes, 7″ singles and CDs, giving Wesley Willis and Boyracer a run for their “world’s most prolific band” money.
The Coroner’s Gambit marks the return of Darnielle following a three-year hiatus and devoted fans have reason to rejoice. At first the album’s 16 songs sound typically off the cusp, but repeated listening reveal precise recordings that somehow sound totally fresh. Augmentations to the Goat’s basic acoustic guitar/vocals sound, such as the harmonica on “The Alphonse Mambo” or the drums on “Baboon,” only enhance the stellar songwriting.
As a music lover, you owe it to yourself to experience this band.
Live @ The Key Club
Bands are often afraid to put out live albums. Why? Because usually they suck live and they don’t want anyone to know that before they buy their albums. Pennywise doesn’t give a shit. They have a loyal following and have become known as one the greatest punk bands ever. So, when they decided to release an album of their greatest hits it might have been a surprise to some that they would do it live. Fortunately for Pennywise, and the rest of the punk community, they sound as good, if not better, live as they do in the studio.
“Wouldn’t it be Nice,” “Living for Today,” and “Fight till you die” are only a few of the legendary songs featured on this album. Not to mention “Bro Hymn” which is probably the greatest punk anthem this side of the Dead Kennedy’s “Kill the Poor.”
There’s really nothing left to say. Pennywise. Greatest hits. Live. Nothing in life could be better.
Direct from Finland (yes, I said Finland), comes the big beat of Pepe Deluxe–a trio of DJs with a love for hip-hop, continental kitsch and psychedelia. The album starts off with a bang and takes you on a funky ride. The middle portion of Super Sound drags a bit and concentrates too much on ambiance rather than getting a rise out of the listener. Pepe Deluxe earn points with “Maddaddy,” which features a “rap” by a disc jockey from the 50s put to Hammond-driven soul music.
The main argument I have with Deluxe’s album is that they lift a lot of their ideas from many popular artists of the same genre (Fatboy Slim, Moby, Wise Guyz). Although there is enough variation on their predecessors’ themes, it leads one to wonder where these guys can go from here.
Our Time With You…
“Sperm,” the second track on Relative Ash’s Island records debut showcases everything that is wrong with the album.
A great intro – an ominous, reverbed bass joined by a clean guitar, a ride-and-snare beat, and eventually a raucous riff – fizzles once the song kicks into full swing. And when the vocals enter, all hope is lost. Rap-metal has never been known for its wonderful vocalists, but for Marcus Harrington, it’s just not happening at all. His screams aren’t impassioned enough to match Jonathan Davis, and he often winds up delivering noises akin to those of a pissed off squirrel. His melodic verses tend to lean towards nasal whining, and don’t quite hold a candle to Chino Moreno. And his obnoxious white-boy raps aren’t nearly as obnoxious as those of Fred Durst; a lackluster attempt to sound annoying.
The drums aren’t tight or intense enough to effectively match the music, and the highly intellectualized lyrics cover such deep topics as masturbation.
Yes, that’s all apparent in the second song. Repeat it a bunch of times over, and you got yourself an album.
With the acception of “Flavor,” the disc’s only worthwhile moment – featuring a nice layering of a clean guitar hook with a crunchy riff in the song’s catchy, melodious chorus – its a good bet that you don’t want to spend a lot of time with Our Time With You.
Little Louis Vega/Erick Morillo
Ministry of Sound’s House Nation America
This two-CD collection of DJ sets is brought to us by way of Ministry of Sound, one of the most prominent dance music web sites. It should be no surprise, then, that they have presented us with a couple of brilliant artists. The first set is by Vega who is a veteran of house and came out of the Latin Freestyle movement of the late 80s. His work here is like Brazil ’66 put to a disco beat using music by Africanism, Blaze and Latina Cafe to show listeners that Latino music is more than just “Livin’ La Vida Loca” and the other watered-down bubblegum the mainstream has made it out to be.
Erick Morillo – most famous for his work on Reel 2 Real’s song “I Like to Move It” – concentrates more on the meaning of house music and it’s ability to move people not just physically but emotionally. He spices his set up with inspirational speeches, Afro-Cuban-inspired beats, and straight disco songs such as Soul Providers’ “Rise” and Lisa Millet’s “Bad Habit.”
Both DJs use percussion effectively and segue seamlessly from one amazing piece to the next. At a time where people are looking abroad to find the future of dance music, this CD reminds us where house music came from and where it is best.
Boiler Room is going to be huge, and that’s the sad part.
As if the world hasn’t been subjected to enough bad music in the last decade, here comes another band destined for MTV’s airwaves.
Can’t Breathe is a perfect example of the terrible state of rock. This album is about as exciting as hearing Vanilla Ice has a new metal band. There is nothing whatsoever that distinguishes this band from Papa Kid Korn Bizkit.
“Generic,” “Interchangeable,” and “Uninspiring” would have been better titles for their songs. They desperately tried to find their own voice, but ended up copying every sound they could. Listening to Can’t Breathe made me wish that I couldn’t breathe, but I choked on just about every lyrical cliche. There’s also enough whining here to make Fran Drescher jealous. Hearing this album makes you want to break stuff, but I don’t think the band’s intention was for me to smash my CD player.
What this band needs to do is listen to their song. “Superficial.” It says, “I can’t stand to be just like you.” Before their next album, let’s hope Boiler Room play that song a lot and realize they sound just like everyone else.
Ladies, Women, and Girls
After years of waiting, Bratmobile – Allison, Molly, and Erin – have reformed and are back with a new album,Ladies, Women, and Girls. Yes, they are now ‘ladies,’ but they still maintain their emotional, honest lyrics. The song “Do you like me like that?” is about Allison’s move to Washington, D.C. and the difficulty of transition.
Some songs are slightly too superficial. Lines like “I got an all girl band/I got nails to file/I got a thing for you/I’ll only wait a little while” from “Come Hither” would be cheesy even if sung by an ‘all boy band.’ However, the song “It’s Common (But We Don’t Talk About It)” is reminiscent of the Pottymouth album, with classic one liners such as “I don’t like your boyfriend and I can’t stand you.”
Being one of the original “Riot Grrrl” bands, Bratmobile came on the scene with bands like Bikini Kill and Huggy Bear. Though members have also played in bands such as the Peechees, Cold Cold Hearts and Deep Lust, this incarnation remains their best accomplishment. Bratmobile is a band whose lyrics any girl can relate to and who have inspired many girls to start their own band.
Those lucky enough to hear the first Motorcoat Records compilation, Never Kept A Diary, experienced a shockingly cohesive collection of diverse indie rock. From the exceptional emo of Jenhitt to the subtle beauty of Ida, the CD was exhilarating. Though they didn’t appear on that comp, the Buddyrevelles have been a Motorcoat staple from the beginning. American Matador testifies why.
The Beloit, Wis. trio’s second album is a nearly 50-minute journey with a band coming into their own under the traditional rock setting of guitar, bass and drums. Complete with math rock time changes, “One, Two” gets the album off on the right foot. “At Least Ten Years” recalls Spent, a likely influence on the band.
The music fluctuates between subtlety and intensity and sprawls like a far-stretching highway. The lead singer isn’t blessed with an amazing voice, and the “scary,” low backing vocals tend to annoy, but the songs are strong enough to negate these factors.
The Buddyrevelles are a band to watch.
Camp Kill Yourself
Camp Kill Yourself is a relatively young band, but they have stirred up plenty of controversy in the short time they’ve been around. Hailing from West Chester, Pa., CKY is best known for their spot in Bam Margera’s skate video Toy Machine. Bam’s brother, Jesse, is the lead singer of the band that has been described as Earth Crisis meets Rush.
They are too good to be compared to anyone else. CKY combines a hard sound with sometimes silly and sometimes very serious lyrics. Songs like “Disengage the Simulator” and “Rio Bravo” bring out the serious tendencies of CKY while “Promiscuous Daughter” shows a humorous side. Their humor is sick, but that tends to be the best kind.
CKY sound like they are influenced by the grunge scene as much as they are by Blue Oyster Cult. Throw in a humorous edge that would make G.G. Allin and the Ween brothers piss themselves and you have Camp Kill Yourself. The name says it all.
Death From Above
License to Kill
The first thing that comes to mind when listening to this album is total chaos. Musical ingredients that include far-ranging spheres of the musical spectrum are all included in this sampling from this quintet that features two Temple students, Brian Slough and John Snowden.
License to Kill incorporates influences as far reaching as Bob Marley to Earth Crisis to Operation Ivy. They proclaim to be “ska metal,” but classifying them as this only limits them in their ability to expand musically. With the influx of cookie cutter hardcore and metal bands infiltrating the mainstream, it is a welcome change to see a band expanding the boundaries of both music and genre. There is no one genre to classify this album under.
Songs like “Shattered Image,” “Choking Victim,” and “Fight to Die” make me want to kill an MTV VJ and smoke a big spliff with him at the same time. This is what makes DFA such a great band. They incorporate so many emotions into one album. The only way for bands like this to get off the ground is for people to open their minds to new innovations in music. Mainstream metal/hardcore/ska/punk will never sound the same after you listen to this album.
The California EP
Extended plays (that’s EP, my friend) are a great way for bands to introduce themselves to new listeners or to test-drive new musical directions. I’m a devout supporter of the format. Give me a killer five-songer over a crap 17-track album any day.
Colorado’s Dressy Bessy play happy, sunny songs. The appropriately titled “California” is more of the same catchy, breezy pop as found on last year’s Pink Hearts Yellow Moons. While Dressy Bessy aren’t gonna change the world anytime soon, their sound – think a lo-fi That Dog or a modern Archies – is undeniably likable.
Selected is the new Lilys EP on File-13, a local label headed by Temple’s own Matt Werth. With an illustrious career already intact, this EP features a new backing band (leader Kurt Heasely goes through band members like Kleenex) playing old favorites. “The Any Several Sundays” is a fine re-recording of a 10-year old tune, while “Touch the Water” marks a second, less-stellar stab at the Apples classic. The EP’s highlight is the stunning “Won’t Make You (Sleepy).” If this line-up sticks, the next Lilys album may be its best in years.
“Goodbye,” the first single on both this EP and Silver Scooter’s next album The Blue Law, is a chilling song about leaving everything behind. This version is a bit more 80s synth-infused that the acoustic version bandleader Scott Garred unleashed on a recent Super XX Man (the obligatory, but better than usual, solo thing) tour. The remaining tracks are top-notch 90s-styled indie rock.
“Amateur Actors” fuses the Austin, Texas-based band’s honed indie rock sound with even more late-80s synth. Coincidentally, the EP concludes with a convincing cover of the New Order classic “Run.” One word: “goosebumps.”
Each clocking in at less than 18 minutes, these succinct EPs serve distinct purposes. California is ideal for a pick-me-up, morning shower. Selected is the soundtrack to your next mind-bending experience. Goodbye is more suited for playing while leaving a crappy relationship.
California Grade: B
Selected Grade: B+
Goodbye Grade: A-
Icon of Coil
Serenity is the Devil
After a while, electronic beat music – like most synth-based music – all starts to sound the same. Hence, it takes a lot more for a band in the genre to actually stand out as something fresh.
Icon of Coil’s debut album shows promise in that respect, but doesn’t fully build on the potential they show. “Regret” seems like a knock-off of Scandinavian EBM mainstays Apoptygma Berzerk, and “Everlasting” also has a very typified sound to it. Their choice to close out the disc with four minutes of experimental noodling and noise doesn’t score them points either.
On the other hand, “Down on me” steers clear of the bright dance sound of the genre, giving a mellow, trancy feel. “Situations like These” builds on that idea, with synthesized strings, a minimal beat, and (gasp!) a female vocalist.
“Fiction” branches off further into a harsh sound with a pulsating industrial synth line. From that point, the album has a very angry, :wumpscut:-esque feel.
Although much of Serenity is the Devil is good performances of the same old sound, the sparks of originality give hope that Icon of Coil could evolve into something truly groundbreaking. We’ll see what happens…
Velvet Acid Christ
Twisted Thought Generator
The latest offering from Velvet Acid Christ is one of the heaviest releases from Philadelphia-based Metropolis Records since Numb’s 1997 album, Blood Meridian.
Steering away from the overly-prevalent sounds of synthcore and EBM, Twisted Thought Generator recalls the hard hitting yet danceable nature of mid-90s industrial music.
Blasted synths and hard beats on “Dial 8” and “Asphixia” recall COP International bands like Pulse Legion and Under the Noise.
“Never Worship” and the instrumental number “Hypersphere” show influence from label mates X Marks the Pedwalk: expansive and driving synth lines with a speedy tempo.
The album has a sometimes great, sometimes obtrusive use of sampling. When used within a song, as in “Lysergia,” it produces a nice, chilling effect. But too many songs end
with up to half a minute of a speaker, sans instrumental accompaniment, breaking up the flow of the disc.
Those moments, along with drug-reference overkill, are the album’s only failings.
If you couldn’t guess from the song titles, Twisted Thought Generator is very drug happy.
Or rather, according to the liner’s mini-essay, it’s a look at “how they can ruin your life.” Whatever the case, the references quickly become stale, detracting from the fantastic
sound of the music.
Velvet Acid Christ w/ Haujobb and Div_Fin. Sun., Dec. 3. , Club Evolution. Call (215) 634-0100 for info.
Run: Boiler Room, Death From Above, Kweli, M.O.P., and Velvet Acid Christ.