August 11, 2011

They say that you can gauge pretty accurately how good an album is based on its b-sides, and if “H.A.M.” was any indication on the kind of music that would be on Watch the Throne I can honestly say my expectations were quite low. The song was kitschy in a way that “opera meets Waka Flocka” doesn’t even begin to describe how polarizing it was (luckily, that track was cut from the album during one of its many reformative incarnations). What we’re left with is a hubristic album; a celebration of what its like to be Kanye West and Jay-Z, two rappers who have maintained a surprising amount of relevancy over the past decade. But really, what does this all add up to? The formula here is “bitches + money + more bitches = money and bitches” and its this phallic thinking that is pursued to the extent that Kanye and Jay-Z’s efforts amount to what is essentially a dick waving contest. Is Watch the Throne necessary? Not necessarily. It’s just another shiny gem and claim staked within the empire of these two rapper moguls.

There are nonetheless a few choice cuts to extract from this beefed up production. The Frank Ocean helmed “No Church in the Wild” is effective in building up the ominous tension, as the euphoric waltz “Lift Off” is like walking into the world’s most lavished party (undoubtedly thrown by Kanye and Jay-Z themselves). “Niggas in Paris” though? Lacking anything resembling substance and coming off as incredibly boring. See, this whole album is lacking in any sort of purpose or direction other than to further exclamate the point that Kanye West is the most influential rapper around, and Jay-Z is the first veteran rap “godfather” not to fade out into obscurity and awful family friendly comedies. All the glitz, glamor, and bravado certainly don’t help tracks like “New Day” and “Murder to Excellence” where the duo touch down on more serious subject matter such as “life in the limelight is hard” and “black on black violence is wrong”. Please, don’t try and fool me album. Watch the Throne is just one big Roman orgy; drunk off of its own excess with Kanye and Jay-Z being the only participating members.

Essentially its an album of highs and lows that despite its fantastic production and quasi-legendary talent never amasses to the brilliantly bold aspirations of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or the consistently virtuosic displays of power that classic Jay-Z albums posses. It must be terribly lonely living on the top of the world because apparently there’s nothing left for these two rappers to prove. And so, in their victory lap around the globe they essentially reaffirm two things; that it’s impossible to humble someone whose head is so far up their ass that everything they say equates to shit talking rhetoric, and that rich rappers really like shiny and expensive things. It would be a different story if all of the gloating actually sounded justified, but when half of these songs revolve around designer labels and sport cars and not actual talent its easy to feel left out in the cold. Good ass job? More like good job, ass.

August 3, 2011

If Odd Future means to distance themselves as far away as possible from being written off as a “horrorcore” group, then Blackenedwhite wont be helping things much. More so than Tyler’s or Earl’s notable releases, Mellowhype seems to fit comfortably in the realm of marijuana glazed transgressive fiction. Originally released for free as "the perfect soundtrack for mobbing on a dark Halloween night", Blackenedwhite’s reissue fits into the growing canon of Odd Future’s work; as scattershot and inconsistent as it may be. And despite this inconsistency in talent and personality that exists within the “wolf gang”, Mellowhype bridges the gap between the genius/overreaching tightrope that pack leaders Tyler and Earl walk on and the amateurish status of the other members. It makes Blackenedwhite the most accessible of all the Odd Future releases; taking typical hip-hop subject matter and club bangers (as tasteless as it may be) and chopping them up into woozy, under-produced, horror movie vignettes. The southern rap sleaze, Waka Flocka homages, and rapid fire genericisms will make this album a bit easier to digest for typical rap fans, while Odd Future devotes will see it more as a garden variety rap album grafted onto the typical group palette.

This reissue lacks a slew of the former (free version’s) tracks, and includes the addition of a few extra cuts (the entertaining as hell “64”, which sounds somewhat out of place solely because it surpasses anything else on this album), along with fancy new packaging. If there’s one positive remark to make about this reissue it’s that it’s the only other Odd Future album to be as tastefully edited as Earl’s solo album. At eleven tracks, it doesn’t begin to meander as much as Tyler’s overly bloated Goblin, and yet Mellowhype doesn’t even begin to touch on Tyler’s imaginative skills as a lyricist or composer. Hodgy Beats is a fine rapper, no doubt about it, but his lyrics are so pinned down to typical posturing banter that it’s hard to get as worked up in the flow as he is. And the production work sounds cheap, not necessarily due to actual bad production techniques or equipment, but due to the reliance of stock drum beats, blips, and canned gun shots. The moments where this album really shines is on the more R&B influenced tracks. “Primo” and “Rico” are spacey and laid back jams that nonetheless have an atmosphere of unease about them. And the Odd Future classic “Fuck the Police” is one of the few tracks where the group’s aggression and technical skill is finally laced in a way that impresses rather than reiterates. Overall though, as inoffensive as Blackenedwhite is in it’s length and understanding it’s limitations, it doesn’t seem to fit in a post-“Yonkers” Odd Future world. The bar has been raised considerably high by Tyler’s ambitions that he threatens to take the Odd Future sound as his own and leave the other members fiddling around with keyboard pre-sets and “beats on loan”. It’s still a delightfully weird album; don’t let me lead you to believe you’ll be hearing any of these tracks on modern rap stations any time soon. However, as long as we’ll be forced to compare Odd Future members to one another Mellowhype will stand as the middle of the road choice between bizaro-inventiveness and what sounds like parodies of tasteless club rap drivel.

July 30, 2011

What’s next to be caught in Spencer Krug’s scattershot of ideas? How about long winded organ based music? Krug’s Moonface project surfaced last year with the twenty minute song Marimba and Shit Drums (a song that sounds exactly as its title suggests). This year, Krug has acquired himself an organ or two and set out to create ornate drone music. Only about half of that came to materialize on Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hope. While the songs are definitely fashioned out of detailed complexities, they only drone in the sense that they’re somewhat long-winded (with each track stretching out to about eight minutes in length). On the five tracks on this album there’s a limited amount of sounds that are available to draw from. These limitations are self-imposed, no doubt, but for what he has to work with Krug extracts a great amount of affection from the purely keyboard based atmosphere.

Suicide’s ghastly doo-wop, Neu!’s hypnotic chug, and electronic Kraftwerk wizardry are all wide reaching influences (or at least, references) made on this album. However, there’s an installed sense of pop melody that cant be escaped on these tracks. Layering melodies atop of each other, tracks such as “Return to the Violence of the Ocean Floor” and “Whale Song (Song Instead of a Kiss)” both grow to mammoth proportions. The payoffs are hard earned, however, when those sudden climatic melodies surface and bubble atop of the thick layers of keyboards underneath it makes one willing to sit through another seven minutes or so to see if such another change could occur.

But perhaps sparks of brilliance only strike once or twice, because for the pace of the rest of the album inevitably slows down to a near halt. “Fast Peter” is perhaps more immediate than any of the other tracks on the album, but with its reliance on one or two melodies and the hilariously aimless and indulgent keyboard solo that occurs near the end of the song, it’s enough to drain me of whatever magic Krug bewitched me with on the first two tracks. And while “Shit-Hawk in the Snow” and “Loose Heart = Loose Plan” makes up for “Fast Peter” they’re only good enough to swing this album from the direction of a “bad album” to a “decent album”. These two tracks are a bit more dramatic, borrowing drums from breakbeat and hip-hop influences which keep the amorphous keyboard landscape pinned down. They’re certainly good, however, they sound more like jams and less like finely tuned popcraft. And yet at the end, I still enjoyed this record. It’s nothing essential, but at least it plays to its influences with an ideal amount of knowing when to experiment and when to simply reiterate.

Drone pop? Yes please. At least the first two tracks are necessary.

July 28, 2011
Fantomas, the Mike Patton lead supergroup consisting of Buzz Osbourne (Melvins), Trevor Dunn (Secret Chiefs 3, Mr. Bungle), and Dave Lombardo (Slayer) are planning to release a DVD performance of their album The Director’s Cut. The DVD is called The Director’s Cut: A New Year’s Revelation, and features a performance of a December, 31st concert.

Fantomas, the Mike Patton lead supergroup consisting of Buzz Osbourne (Melvins), Trevor Dunn (Secret Chiefs 3, Mr. Bungle), and Dave Lombardo (Slayer) are planning to release a DVD performance of their album The Director’s Cut. The DVD is called The Director’s Cut: A New Year’s Revelation, and features a performance of a December, 31st concert.

July 28, 2011
Legendary Post-Hardcore/Garage Rock band Hot Snakes are reforming to perform at All Tomorrow’s Parties UK. They’re also planning other shows after the ATP gig, however, dates and locations are undecided as of now.

Legendary Post-Hardcore/Garage Rock band Hot Snakes are reforming to perform at All Tomorrow’s Parties UK. They’re also planning other shows after the ATP gig, however, dates and locations are undecided as of now.

July 28, 2011
Kanye West and Jay-Z are taking their super duo act on the road later this year under the moniker The Throne. The ridiculously boisterous duo will be touring to support their upcoming album, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Kanye and Jay-Z play some of their own tracks as well. The tour dates are as follows;
09.22.11 - Detroit, MI - Palace of Auburn Hills 09.24.11 - Toronto, ON - Air Canada Centre 09.25.11 - Montreal, QC - Bell Centre 09.27.11 - East Rutherford, NJ - Izod Center 09.28.11 - East Rutherford, NJ - Izod Center 09.29.11 - Washington DC - Verizon Center 10.04.11 - Philadelphia, PA - Wells Fargo Center 10.06.11 - Chicago, IL - United Center 10.07.11 - Chicago, IL - United Center 10.08.11 - Minneapolis, MN - Target Center 10.10.11 - Denver, CO - Pepsi Center 10.13.11 - Tacoma, WA - Tacoma Dome 10.14.11 - Vancouver, BC - Rogers Arena 10.16.11 - San Jose, CA - HP Pavilion 10.17.11 - Sacramento, CA - Power Balance Pavilion 10.19.11 - Los Angeles, CA - Staples Center 10.20.11 - Los Angeles, CA - Staples Center 10.21.11 - Las Vegas, NV - MGM Grand Garden Arena 10.25.11 - Dallas, TX - American Airlines Center 10.26.11 - Houston, TX - Toyota Center 10.29.11 - Atlanta, GA - Philips Arena 10.30.11 - Greensboro, NC - Greensboro Coliseum 11.01.11 - Baltimore, MD - 1st Mariner Arena 11.03.11 - Boston, MA - TD Garden

Kanye West and Jay-Z are taking their super duo act on the road later this year under the moniker The Throne. The ridiculously boisterous duo will be touring to support their upcoming album, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Kanye and Jay-Z play some of their own tracks as well. The tour dates are as follows;

09.22.11 - Detroit, MI - Palace of Auburn Hills
09.24.11 - Toronto, ON - Air Canada Centre
09.25.11 - Montreal, QC - Bell Centre
09.27.11 - East Rutherford, NJ - Izod Center
09.28.11 - East Rutherford, NJ - Izod Center
09.29.11 - Washington DC - Verizon Center
10.04.11 - Philadelphia, PA - Wells Fargo Center
10.06.11 - Chicago, IL - United Center
10.07.11 - Chicago, IL - United Center
10.08.11 - Minneapolis, MN - Target Center
10.10.11 - Denver, CO - Pepsi Center
10.13.11 - Tacoma, WA - Tacoma Dome
10.14.11 - Vancouver, BC - Rogers Arena
10.16.11 - San Jose, CA - HP Pavilion
10.17.11 - Sacramento, CA - Power Balance Pavilion
10.19.11 - Los Angeles, CA - Staples Center
10.20.11 - Los Angeles, CA - Staples Center
10.21.11 - Las Vegas, NV - MGM Grand Garden Arena
10.25.11 - Dallas, TX - American Airlines Center
10.26.11 - Houston, TX - Toyota Center
10.29.11 - Atlanta, GA - Philips Arena
10.30.11 - Greensboro, NC - Greensboro Coliseum
11.01.11 - Baltimore, MD - 1st Mariner Arena
11.03.11 - Boston, MA - TD Garden

July 28, 2011
Dan Peek of the American folk-rock band America has passed away at the age of 60. The cause of death is thus far unknown.

Dan Peek of the American folk-rock band America has passed away at the age of 60. The cause of death is thus far unknown.

July 28, 2011
Big news for fans of The Smiths. A ridiculously stuffed package featuring pretty much everything The Smiths ever released is set to be released this October. The Smiths Complete - Deluxe Collectors Box Set will include remastered versions of all eight of the band’s full-length releases on both CD and Vinyl, reproductions of their 25 7-inch singles, a DVD with all of their music videos, as well as extensive liner notes, posters, and artwork.

Big news for fans of The Smiths. A ridiculously stuffed package featuring pretty much everything The Smiths ever released is set to be released this October. The Smiths Complete - Deluxe Collectors Box Set will include remastered versions of all eight of the band’s full-length releases on both CD and Vinyl, reproductions of their 25 7-inch singles, a DVD with all of their music videos, as well as extensive liner notes, posters, and artwork.

July 28, 2011
Davis Guggenheim, director of The Inconvenient Truth, is set to premier his new documentary about the band U2 (From the Sky Down) at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8th. The documentary follows archival footage of the band recording their 1991 album Achtung Baby.

Davis Guggenheim, director of The Inconvenient Truth, is set to premier his new documentary about the band U2 (From the Sky Down) at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8th. The documentary follows archival footage of the band recording their 1991 album Achtung Baby.

July 28, 2011
They just refuse to give up. The Who (aka, Roger Daltry and Pete Townshend) have revealed plans to do a Quadrophenia Tour after Roger Daltry completes his Tommy solo tour. The album was played only briefly when it was released in 1973, and due to technical difficulties, the songs from the album were cancelled on that tour. It’s only been performed live twice since then. The album is also being remastered in a deluxe edition, reports guitarist Pete Townshend.

They just refuse to give up. The Who (aka, Roger Daltry and Pete Townshend) have revealed plans to do a Quadrophenia Tour after Roger Daltry completes his Tommy solo tour. The album was played only briefly when it was released in 1973, and due to technical difficulties, the songs from the album were cancelled on that tour. It’s only been performed live twice since then. The album is also being remastered in a deluxe edition, reports guitarist Pete Townshend.

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