Reevaluating BIG BOI – Sir Lucious Left Foot … The Son of Chio Dusty (Def Jam, 2010)

I love a love/hate affair with HipHop, really. I love much of the music, but essentially want it to have the ethos frequently found in punk – and this is frequently not the case. Especially with mainstream hiphop, the lyrical content seems to be espousing a view of the world at total opposition to one that appeals to me. And, why I look towards mainstream hiphop to echo that DIY, all-in-it-together is beyond me.

People who say there’s no good rock music anymore are essentially just listening to the radio, expecting the twats running the labels to have any interest in pushing music that might have some artistic merit. Bollocks – there is loads of great music out there, just don’t look to the radio to provide it. SO, why on earth would I think mainstream hiphop would provide anything that mainstream guitar music doesn’t? I’m a fool.

And, so it was the fool that purchased this music. Rather than following the lines that led to more experimental, interesting things of the underground hiphop, I went ‘eh, I’ll give this a go.’ And, it leaves me cold.

The beats are all supersmooth, high-quality synthetics – like really high-grade false breasts. I mean, this stuff sounds like a rather fine cut but ridald-coloured suede, satin and silk suit. And lots of cheap gold jewellery, adorning everything. And some of the music is excellent – General Patton’s church chorus set to hyper highhats is rather grand; as is Turns Me On low-key smooth funk backing.

And there’s no getting around the fact that Big Boi has what those in the hiphop community call ‘flow’ – words just trip off his tongue like they were nothing. Smooth like butter, baby, like butter, as A Tribe Called Quest once said.

Musically, this is an aesthetically pleasing thing. The beats are smooth, the rhymes more so. But, what of the lyrical content of a music where lyrics are so central to the outcome? Well, apparently Tangerine ‘shakes it like a tambourine’, where he then says ‘I put her on a plate until she no longer awake / They just lay fast asleep when I hit ’em with the snake’. So, perhaps I’m reading this wrong, but Big Boi, you rape women when after they fall asleep at your place? Nice.

That lyric is enough to put me off Big Boi for life – that shit’s fucked up. Not to mention the other numerous shit outhere. Where am I on this record? Essentially, I feel let down by the press that, in 2010, didn’t give enough of a fuck on such issues to ever mention such things and in 2013 have been reluctantly pressed into struggling to admit the date-rape themes of such dickbag’s, but only when they’re pressed on such issue.

So, fuck labels, fuck mainstream hiphop, and fuck this record. As Scroobius Pip (although, I feel he sometimes treds onto being a bit sexist with his vids and images) remarked:

Thou shalt remember that guns, bitches and bling where never part of the four elements / and never will be

Or, as Saul Williams said:

Telegram to Hip Hop: Dear Hip Hop .(stop). This shit has gone too far. (stop). Please see that mixer and turntables are returned to Kool Herc. (stop). The ghettos are dancing off beat. (stop). The master of ceremonies have forgotten that they were once slaves and have neglected the occasion of this ceremony. (stop). Perhaps we should not have encouraged them to use cordless microphones, for they have walked too far from the source and are emitting a lesser frequency (stop). Please inform all interested parties that cash nor murder have been added to the list of elements. (stop). We are discontinuing our current line of braggadocio, in light of the current trend in “realness”. (stop). As an alternative, we will be confiscating weed supplies and replacing them with magic mushrooms, in hopes of helping n****s see beyond their reality. (stop). Give my regards to Brooklyn.

Or, as De La Soul put it back in 1994:

Rating: lyrics make a real difference, especially in a style set so much around lyrics. So basically, fuck Big Boi. It’s also, as ever, heartbreaking to see the likes of George Clinton and Janelle Monae involved in this pile of misogynistic bollocks. Lesson: don’t bother with crap you feel the ethics of are questionable .

PS. Sole did a song with a better backing track than General Patton, and the lyric content is a much improvement:



FIDLAR – FIDLAR (Witchita, 2013)

Those dumb punk kids will buy anything.

Well, perhaps.

There’s something a resurgence of punk and hardcore that doesn’t seem to come from ‘the scene’, and is usually triumphed by non-scene media – which is suspicious. This is not to say that the ‘scene’ should be the ‘approved’ way to be recognised as a punk band, just that I’m suspicious of ‘punk’ I hear through, say, Pitchfork, than I am through a mate, a Facebook post from a associate, or even Basically, media-first, rather than word-of-mouth, seems to be akin to hype.

And there are things that stink of hype in ‘the scene’ (don’t ask me to define it), as well. I mean, what the fuck is OFF! about? They suck. The Circle Jerks sort of sucked, too. And the only Black Flag album I’ve listened to that find remotely interest is Slip It In. Bad Brains? Bunch of homophobic wank – that first album is balls, too. Maybe you had to be there.

Anyway, enough with the bitching. Okay one more, but this is where I was leading – Cerebral Ballzy are an appalling, terrible, awful band. Hyped by the media as a return to hardcore’s roots. Bollocks is it – they may play hardcore music, but like thrash metal’s return in the mid ’00s, it’s devoid anything that made the original scene interesting. This time round, both thrash and hardcore, were shadows of their former self, devoid of reason, devoid of mission. Faux anger, faux nihilism, faux fun. They took the Beavis and Butthead laughter too seriously, and thought it was all a joke.

FIDLAR sum up the problem with these bands quite well. The opener features the chorus, ‘I drink cheap beer, so what? Fuck you.’ So what, indeed, so why should I fucking care?

But FIDLAR are a bit different. Unlike their market-buddies in Cerebal Ballzy, FIDLAR can write a good tune. The lyrics are embarrasing, but the noise is nice. This doesn’t mean I think much of their punk stance – that doesn’t work, that doesn’t sell for shit. But, as kids who like some loud guitars, they’re pretty good.

The sound is scratchy guitars playing mostly power chords with the occasional quite dumb lead, horesly shouted vocals, the bass does nothing interesting, and the drums are quiet in the mix, but are played loudly. No songs outstay their welcome – it’s all over pretty quick. And, as I said, they write some good pop tunes.

Rating: this ain’t punk. It’s basically some rock’n’roll-based indie with wannabe nihilistic lyricism. Again, this isn’t to say it’s bad – it just is what it is. But, I think enough time has passed to see past the marketting bollocks and actually find some enjoyment in it just as it is for itself.

Revaluating DUB COLOSSUS – in a Town Call Addis (2008, Real World)

Part I: There’s a line in the Smashing Pumpkins song Zero that equates cleanliness with emptiness. This isn’t the intention, perhaps, but this is a useful connotation for this review:

Emptiness is loneliness, loneliness is cleanliness
Cleanliness is Godliness, and God is Empty just like me.

Thus, cleanliness may be interpreted as emptiness.

The high-point in dub as an artistic music form was arguably the 1970s. I am so convined by this I have a wager with myself that anything released by Island during the mid-1970s is gold: it has not yet led me astray. Dub is understood (by me) as a rather echoy, extremely-bass heavy, sparse music based building on the rhythmes of reggae, but with much studio trickery involved. It was, perhaps, the first genre in which the producer was the main artist in the final product. Or, perhaps, studio-trickery is the star here.

One of the best features was the great big dirty bass – Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry intentionally recorded all the bass way in the red (if I remember this correctly), causing a throbbing overdrive, an excitement in an otherwise stoned out music that was about floating. And what a sound it is. Golly gee, what a sound.

Part II: I have an enduring fascination with what may be called ‘world music’. This awful, sickening, stomach-turning term is frequently placed in front of non-Western music that is sold to Westerners, and, in many ways, is sold as ‘authentic’ folk music from particular places. But one thing strings much of it together.

It’s sickening, saccharin, smooth sound. No boom, no overdrives, no in-the-reds, no personality of any sort whatsoever shall be left in the music in question.

So, how does Dub Colossus mix this traditionally dirty music of dub with the traditionally moisturised-beyond-belief sound of world music? Well. It essentially uses dub as a world music, and through this making it smooth.

The world music – folk sound – that is layered on top is Ethiopian music with a smattering of jazz. Some great sounding vocalist subdued by sounding bored and calling it in; some smooth sax and. See, dub, Ethiopian folk, jazz is a bloody exciting description. And there are very nice things about this music, but it’s so bloody smooth, so knowing, so composed that it’s incredibly dull.

This is music for middle class hippies, and only the middle class hippies that don’t smoke weed anymore.

Rating: cleanliness is emptiness. When will I bloody learn?

Track Review: Metallica ‘Lords of the Summer’

In anticipation of their Glastonbury headline, metal titans (that’s such a music-journalist phrase) Metallica have released another demo version of a song they released last year as a demo (‘garage’) version, which was previously leaked from their live shows.

Anyway, it’s probably the best song they’ve put out in a while. But, having this track in isolation and relatively low-key production (and no fucking stupid overdone mastering) allows us to listen and analyse to elements of the band quite closely. Things to take away from this song:

  • James Hetfield can still write a good riff, but he reverts back to hard rock too easily
  • The chorus is good, though? And some great riffing, generally. It’s a fun number. Hope remains. And their set at Glastonbury may be the first thing of Glastonbury I’ll ever watch.
  • The genius’ of song structure (see the entire of … And Justice For All) reached for, but not grasped.
  • They don’t know how to edit themselves (what’s the silly bit at 4.48 about? Just cut it out and go into the solo!). There’s far too much guff on it. It’s a 4-5, 6 minute song. Tops.
  • Kirk Hammet has forgot how to structure solos, but still makes nice sounds here and there.
  • These Lars Ulrich is a hard rock drummer trying to play heavy metal.
  • They’re trying to move back to thrash, then, but much of their heart seems to be in hard rock. Which is fine, if you want hard rock, but most Metallica fans want thrash, really.

Also, the chorus does make me want to listen to Lord of the Dance:



Write heavier lyrics than that, Hetfield!

Is Crowdfunding about the Free Market or Community?

Fuck. This writing this blog just made me realise that this is essentially commenting …

The internet is a place where hype is most definitely abound, particularly on the more political implications. To many, the internet was going to set everybody free  – knowledge is power, and the Internet is potentially the greatest source of knowledge mankind has ever known. These days, these people are generally known as Internet Utopinianists.

The implication was that the Internet allows a democratisation of the world – no longer do we need record labels, as there’s no need for the middleman between the band and its fans. And this, on the surface, seemed true to some extent with the rise of the Crowdsourcing phenomenon. This week has seen a story of the Foo Fighters agreeing to play a gig in a town in the US they haven’t played for 16 years after the gig was Crowdsourced. I saw a (bloody awful) gig at The Electric Ballroom by the Swedish world music-psychedelic-funksters Goat last year that was intiated by Songkick’s Detour.

All this comes to mind due to an article featured on the Guardian website casting doubt that all this (and more) is actually free-market capitalism:

inside beats the libertarian free-market clank of the Silicon Valley culture in which it was forged. It is part of the same impulse as Uber or Airbnb, where upstart companies use the language of communality to speak individualistic capitalism: when using one of these services you’re in a one-on-one transaction away from the rest of society. How uncomfortable you are about this probably depends on how traditionally leftwing you are, but the broader point is that crowdfunding prioritises isolationism over plurality, and that can affect the kind of art that reaches us.

Maybe, although I’m uncomfortable with the idea that because I buy direct from a band I am somehow directly conspiring and agreeing with free market capitalism, a system I generally abhore. Is there no other way to conceive this relationship?

Frank Turner, the one man Mumford & Son, got into a bit of a kafuffle last year with some of the liberal left Guardianista types for standing up as a Liberatarian who believed in economic liberty as well as social libertarianism. He said his values were the values of punk. But, free market values (economic libertarianism) are not the values of a punk that I understand as that is only understanding the value of something as a commodity. That the items of music have no value past what people are willing to pay for them.

I reject this. The economic relationship between band and fan, to me, is much more about supporting bands directly – there is the unfortunate necessity (well, if you have any sense of supporting the music you like) of an economic transaction. But conceived only as that, it hides away the real thing going on: a celebration of culture, despite it’s economic value.

Ben Beaumont-Thomas writes that

Some campaigns drift into exploitation, like Amanda Palmer’s recruiting of unpaid musicians, and abuse their funders by paying them back only in their own satisfaction and glee. Ultimately it depends on the funder whether they are content with the transaction

But, that’s due to Amanda Palmer’s shitiness, not the fans who want to celebrate what Amanda Palmer has done for them, as fans of her output. And – ‘paying funders back only in their own satisfaction and glee’ – what better for a fan than seeing/hearing the music that you want to see? Beaumont-Thomas seems to completely misunderstand why people like music : this is not a rational deal, darling. This is love.

Personally, I find the threat of the free market issue is different from the above mentioned suggestions.  What about new bands and musicians? What about experimentalism within music? Who’s going to pay for that to start out that when most of those fuckers just want to see the Foo Fighters, Amanda Palmer or some other act that made its name through major labels, major advertising, and major radio stations? Perhaps music is now in more of an mainstream/underground apartheid than its ever been – the rich get richer with the Crowdsourcing, recycling dead ideas until the shitty, flattened, beaten corpse can’t given anymore and yet people still turn out: while innovative, interesting, passionate, experimental bands reach a crowd of hundreds around the globe for 20 years until a cultural event hails them as legends and they play a sold-out Barbican. Until then, it’s all cold, tinned beans, shitty jobs, and an album every 3 years.

Whither Shipping Costs?

It’s hit me, being into bands from across the pond who don’t have large distribution deals, that there’s something rather strange implications about it. I remember not being able to find DIY records in the UK or Italy in the late 1990s, when I was a teenager. When my parents went off to the US, they’d go armed with a list in which, I’m told, would make the occasional record store type question whether they were responsible parents or not. It was frustrating, but it did make those records and the occasional visit more exciting. But, it also meant that the music scene’s were a mystery – where do you find things in a city you have metaphysical access to

Then, with the growth of the internet, that list disappeared. In the 00s – p&p from the US was frequently dirt cheap. You could access music from anywhere and buy it from anywhere and it was, I guess, cheap. But accessible.

Now, it’s back to being expensive. Just this morning, I was looking at buying the AUSTERITY PROGRAM’s new record Beyond Calculation (Controlled Burn Records) (I want to support the band in what ways I can), except that it costs more to ship a record than the record itself. I don’t want to give the postal people more money than the fucking band! I first noticed it with the Sargent House record label. To buy from them at the gig requires waiting for that gig (do Sargent House send out distro stuff with their bands? Have they thought about it?), and that’s not always the most convenient of gig, too.
If memory serves (and it occasionally doesn’t), this shipping cost saw a massive increase last year, making once quite happy purchases quite expensive. The bands hurt, the record labels hurt, the listeners hurt.
Listening to mp3s or streaming is not the same experience as the physical item. It just isn’t – materiality matters. I’m just wondering about the long term implications for the DIY scene(s), where music struggles to spread amongst (the) scene(s) that are still very much involved in physical objects to enjoy music. Will things become more insular, where foreign bands become more special? Will people look towards local scenes for something new? Will geography matter again?

White Suns – Totem (2014, The Flenser)


Jesus H Christ on a bike, what a fucking album. It’s not good practice just to say something is good – I get really fucking fed up with it whenever anybody else does it. And, it’s just not good practice. But, this album is mammoth. Totem makes a sound that conjures an image of someone trapped down a boarded-up, dried-up well: hollow and almost pitch-black but with the occasional ray of blaring, blinding white light casting through the cracks onto the poor bastard who has clawed their fingers to the knuckle trying to get out, who can now only screech and gnaw with his stumps.

Or, at least, that’s what it seems like to me. I could be wrong.

Noise guitars, vocals and drums is what’s on offer, but it’s not what you get, exactly. This is record is nihilistic at its very core.  It’s dark, dissonant, and doesn’t care, or maybe it just can’t care. The sound is one of atonalist feedback occasionally punctured by hectic, hateful, loud “songs”. Strangely sensitive relentless drums; occasionally howling yelling’s and occasionally alienated spoken word. Basically, the sound of intense screams piercing the sobbing of the person trapped down the well.

Some might call the noise soundscape-like, but I don’t think that, that is not it’s purpose. Its purpose seems more like to isolate the listener – you’re all alone on this trip, and this trip isn’t fun. Just you and the noise. What’s more, the monsters (songs?) that leap out of the darkness at you aren’t actually there – they’re figments of your imagination. But, perhaps that’s worse than them being real. These songs will scare the shit out of you and return to darkness before you know you’ve been bludgeoned. The ethereal noise they make is only the parts of your experience of the well when you’re awake.

But, there’s something absolutely compelling about it – you keep returning to it. The dark hole is a comfort, the monsters are your friends.

Really, the only apt response after listening to this record is to find yourself bleeding from your ears afterwards.

Rating: This is a nihilistic, noise rock based in despair. And I’ve probably over blown it, but this is nevertheless one hell of a record and easily one of the most stunning things this year. I’m saluting this one.



REvaluating MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA – Apocalypse (1974, CBS)

In my review of NO AGE’s 2008 effort, Noun, I questioned what how the album benefitted me. I concluded that it wouldn’t much, really. It’s a much more difficult question to answer with this Mahavishnu Orchestra album.

Perhaps because this album is a very grand experiment – a prog jazz rock fusion band playing with the London Symphony Orchestra at the height of prog jazz fusion silliness of the mid-1970s. I shouldn’t have to introduce the Mahavishnu Orchestra really – I’m sure the Wikipedia page is long enough and does an exemplary job – perhaps to say little more than it’s fronted by John McLaughlin, a pioneer of jazz rock. Also on the Mahavishnu books for this album is the exemplary jazz violinist, Jean-Luc Ponty.

Enough; enough of that guff.

So, what’s the sound? A decent play – well, it’s prog rock jazz with an orchestra intermingling here and there, really. The hard hitting drummer, Michael Warden drives the show, and is an excellent, exciting anchor to have – and things tend to bubble and boil around him. You have moments of orchestration being the overwhelming theme, and then moments of fusion jazz wig outs, with McLaughlin’s or Ponty’s piecing tone cutting through everything to lead. And then, there are surprising melds when the orchestra backs one of these rather fine solos. Or in the case of a midsection of the last number, where the orchestra provides the change-over riff for the dualling of Ponty and McLaughlin.

McLaughlin and Ponty have a similar style, to my years, very complimentary – fret boards a-fire, essentially.

But, the thing about jazz fusion is that it’s emphasis is on the smooth, and it’s something that I always find grating. Ralphe Armstrong’s (fretless? Urgh!) bass here is like butter, so that even atonal moments don’t sound that jarring. This is a problem. And, to go with that, the orchestration is a tad on the conservative side, opting for classical, almost filmatic or romantic sounds rather than anything approaching ‘modern’ composition. And in that, it’s quite bland – the orchestra stay’s where it is most comfortable; the jazz is really the experiment here.

But, Walden’s drumming is bloody marvellous, a tour-de-force.

This jazz, ultimately, is about musicianship and – golly – musicianship is on display. It’s hard to fault anybody’s performance. And maybe it’s the lack of dynamic – I am listening to a 1990 CD version of this 1974 – and I find it quite easy to tune out the album. Also, perhaps is the slow movements of the album, that it’s self indulgence is for all to see. But, that’s obvious from the fucking album from this fucking band at this fucking point in jazz and prog history – this is a prog jazz fusion band backed by the sodding London Symphony Orchestra. When was that not going to be self-indulgent?

Rating: It’s very impressive, and quite hard to decide. I have issues with it, but it also has some grand moments. The more I listen to it, however, the more I find myself accepting its place in the collection. It can go beside the two ELP albums. As long as this sort of stuff never overwhelms the dirtier music, I think I can survive.

Reevaluating OM – Advaitic Songs (2012, Drag City)

There was a lot of hype about this album from reviews when it came out. A lot. What the fuck is this? Mid-Eastern Coptic stoner music? By one of the guys who used to be in the uber-stoner band, Sleep? Jesus, that’s gotta be something. This is a bit of a description of a wet dream: experimental in a unique way, but based in stoner groves.

I had resisted this album, until word of mouth came to me. Reviews be damned: mates have a lot more influence than anything of that sort. So, after being familiar with their 2006 Conference of Birds album – which is pretty decent, I was open minded to trying them again.

The opener on Advaitic Songs, ‘Addis’, starts well enough – cello, tabula-sounding but heavy drums, female-vocal chants. All good. But, it’s a meditation on a riff – and it doesn’t really build all that much. Well, its repetition builds tension, waiting for it to explode in some blissed out, stoner glory. All head bobbing, spliffs, smoky lights. But, it’s just the same low-key meditation for 5 minutes, barely progressing. It’s all tension, no pay off.

The second track (less songs, more tracks, really) is the pay off. The bass is distorted to the point where three-blind mice would sound like a stoner riff; drums hammer a classic stoner beat, and the violins. This is more like it. But, there’s a lack of progress in the song – again, meditation takes control until the last two minutes where a string section gives some depth to the overly-long fade.

I’ve never been a massive fan of stoner music, to be honest. The first five Black Sabbath albums are classics and contain some fantastic things on them, but most of it’s basically slowed-down, tuned-down, fuzzed-up blues rock riffs. There’s some great stuff, but it’s an easy music to make. Eh. It is and always has been – I just don’t care about the groove, maaaaaan, enough to find that the attitude is so fucking boring. GET ON WITH IT, YOU CUNTS.

And, be honest, OM are shit at structuring things. They don’t seem to believe in the pay off. And I find this immensely frustrating, as the riffs they tend to meditate on are not great stoner riffs. And at least fucking post-rock bands give you a pay off occasionally. What’s the point in playing stoner music with barely a pay off? When does my head sore into the sky? When do I leave this planet during this? Never, I’m just always left waiting for it. Nothing happens, just what sounds like building and building and building because repetition of a fairly understated riff ends up with a massive pay off – not here. Fucking hell. I need to listen to something heavy and fun, now, something with a ‘fuck yeah!’ that this has none of.

Rating: Never, ever listen to mainstream music reviews, particularly about music you like. Essentially, OM – fuck you and your tantric music.

PS. I turned on NEW BOMB TURKS – Information Highway Revisited (1994) . It’s great, it has fucking swagger, and pay off a plenty. And one of the best kick-drumming drumers in the world, utterly relentless.

REevaluating NO AGE – Nouns (2008, SubPop)

Essentially, the reason I’m doing these ‘reevaluate’ things is that I need/want to cull my music collection every so often, and so I pull records that I own but haven’t been that taken by and, well, revaluate them.

My most formative musical experience has been within the DIY/punk scenes of Brighton and London, and a desperate search for them while living abroad. Particularly, the punk thing is very important to me, and so everything that’s labelled ‘punk’ by online and offline magazines is at least of interest to me. However, I feel there’s been a somewhat miscommunication in what should be called punk and what is called punk.

But, I’m becoming more and more confused by what some people term ‘punk’ as it frequently seems to me to be, simply, slightly-louder-than-normal indie. An easy rule, and one made up in an instant and probably doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, is: if it sounds weaker than the Pixies (and this is not dis to the Pixies), it’s probably indie.

Take No Age – sold as a punk band by whoever’s review I read of it. I enjoyed enough tracks, and was curious enough to indulge in owning it to really try and get to grips with it. And, this album has some fine tracks on it, particularly ‘Teen Creeps’ is a bit of a rolling indie driving wall-of-guitar number. But, punk it is not. It has none of the punk that the Pixies had, really. Or, it has some of it, but always in the shadows.

Is it experimental, another thing I believe I was sold on it? Not really. A brief description of each part will suffice. No Age are a two piece, drum and guitar, whose drummer plays generally quite standard indie-rock beats, and whose guitarist opts for a scratchy, highly reverbed, tone. The guitar is blurred enough to be a wall of sound-ish when strummed, generally lacking any definition. The vocals are a sort of mumbled, barely sung affair, a sound that seemed very prominent in indie a few years ago – barely bothering to sing. And then it has really boring moments of just slightly psychedelic sounds.

So, they make an enjoyable sound, they have some good songs, but I can’t help ask myself the question: how is this benefitting me? I’m not enjoying it enough for it to be beyond trying to bother with justification, but I’m not bored enough by it just to take it down to the local 2nd hand shop. The song’s just aren’t good enough, the experiments aren’t wild enough, and it sounds like they’ve buried all their indecisions in a world of reverb to disguise the fact it’s just not that good. It’s as if noise is an afterthought to cover up for a rather amateurish indie pop band who enjoy the Ramones occasionally – but just don’t have the balls/overies to be punk.

Rating: will I ever put this on just out of whim? Doubt it. Some good songs, just ruined by indecision, too much reverb, too much general noise, and not enough songs, or experimentation. It’s not really contributing anything new, or that exciting, to my music collection.