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Archive for the ‘Boston, MA’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: CONWAY THE MACHINE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #84 (September 23, 2020).

Several musicians have tinkered with the “home” component of the Tiny Desk Home Concert.

Conway the Machine’s “home” is in the Queens, NY restaurant lil’ Sweet Chick, where he performs five songs, and has a fine looking plate of chicken and waffles.

Conway the Machine is part of Griselda, a Queens-based rap trio.  I watched Benny the Butcher’s Tiny Desk recently and rather enjoyed it. Conway’s songs seem grittier and darker (especially when you learn the origins of “Front Lines.”

He opens with “Lemon” (prod. by Daringer & Beat Butcha) as a waitress brings him a drink (a lemon squeeze?).  The music is dark and grimy and it works very well with his voice.

Up next is “Front Lines” (prod. by Beat Butcha) which was inspired by the George Floyd incident–he wanted to record a perspective from the upset angry protestors.  It speaks directly to the racial profiling committed by cops while policing Black communities with this outstanding verse:

I just seen a video on the news I couldn’t believe (nah)
Another racist cop kill a nigga and get to leave (again?)
He screamin’, “I can’t breathe”, cop ignorin’ all his pleas
Hands in his pocket, leanin’ on his neck with his knees (psh)
Cracker invent the laws, that’s why the system is flawed
Cops killin’ black people on camera and don’t get charged
We ain’t takin’ no more, we ain’t just pressin’ record
Can’t watch you kill my brother, you gon’ have to kill us all
Just ’cause he from the ghetto, that don’t mean he sellin’ crack
He drivin’ home from work, you pull him over ’cause he black
Think he gangbangin’ ’cause he got dreads and a few tats
He reach for his ID, you think he reachin’ for a strap
He get out, put his hands up, and he still gettin’ clapped
But if he try to run, you just gon’ shoot him in his back
What if it was my son? I wonder how I’m gon’ react
I bet I’m finna run up in this precinct with this MAC (brr)
I swear to God

“OverDose” (prod. by The Alchemist) has what sounds like a zither as the main discordant musical tone.  I like the way the bass is slow and his rapping is really fast.

Then comes “The Cow” (prod. by Daringer)  “The Cow” is, as he says in the intro, “one of [the] most personal and transparent records I ever wrote,” in which he speaks about losing one of his best friends and getting shot in the head and neck. The injuries led to permanent facial paralysis.  The song has brought Conway to tears in the past, and the memories clearly get to him again here.

Last is “Anza” (prod. by Murda Beatz) which is a pretty traditional bragging rap, with maybe a touch more aggression than other.

As the set ends, he thanks lil’ Sweet Chick for the ambiance: “I’m about to get into this chicken right here … tastes like it was made with a mother’s care.”

[READ: September 23, 2020] Three Hundred Years Hence (excerpt)

During the COVID Quarantine, venerable publisher Hingston & Olsen created, under the editorship of Rebecca Romney, a gorgeous box of 12 stories.  It has a die-cut opening to allow the top book’s central image to show through (each book’s center is different).  You can get a copy here.

This is a collection of science fiction stories written from 1836 to 1998.  Each story imagines the future–some further into the future than others.

As it says on the back of the box

Their future.  Our present.  From social reforms to climate change, video chat to the new face of fascism, Projections is a collection of 12 sci-fi stories that anticipated life in the present day.

This first story is by Mary Griffith.  Written in 1836, it looks, literally, three hundred years into the future.  Romney writes:

It is the story of a man who gets caught in an avalanche of ice in 1835 and wakes up in 2135.  It’s often cited as the earliest utopia written by an American woman.  The author imagined a future in which society’s advancements increase dramatically due to one major structural shift: supporting women in science.  Born in 1772, Griffith herself was one of the nascent United States’ earliest practicing women scientists, with special contribution in geology.

The ice man, Hastings, is given a tour of the country–New York, Boston and Philadelphia–by a man named Edgar.   Edgar updates him and tells him about al of the changes that have taken place.

The writing style of this tory isn’t all that interesting–it’s a little preachy and dry.  Since this is an excerpt I’m not sure if there’s a plot necessarily.  But in this excerpt it’s mostly just meandering around.    (more…)

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815SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-New Album (2011).

In 2011, Boris released three albums at roughly the same time.  The three albums are linked because they share tracks (usually very different versions, sometimes radically different).  And, of course, the CD and LP feature different versions of several tracks (but none seem to have a different cover).

New Album shares the songs “Hope,” “Party Boy” and “Spoon” with Attention Please. 
New Album shares the tracks “Jackson Head” and “Tu, La La” with Heavy Rocks.
Heavy Rocks
shares the tracks “Aileron” with Attention Please, although it is radically different.

Sargent House CD (Total length: 50:10).  Interestingly, this American release is longer than the other two.  It is quite poppy with some heavier elements.  There’s a lot of songs that could even be considered dancey (!).

“Flare” 5:04 opens with sirens blaring and a gentle electronic introduction a song bursts forth that feels like total J-pop.  A little heavy (in parts) but this is really dancey.  There’s a great Wata solo in the middle and a rather heavy ending.  The percussion throughout is very mechanical sounding like ea car engine sputtering.  It’s a remarkable sound for Boris.

“Hope” 3:43 is a poppy / shoegazey song sung by Wata. It’s synthy (with trippy synth sound effects  throughout).  It’s slick and catchy.  The version of Attention Please is a more organic, with strings instead of electronics.

“Party Boy” 3:48 opens with a synthy riff and thumping bass drums.  It is the catchiest thing they’re released with a really poppy chorus and interesting swirling synths around the vocals.  There’s even a harp in the middle of the song.  The version on Attention Please is much heavier with a buzzy bass guitar and almost no synths.

“Luna” 8:29 has fast electronic drums and processed Wata backing vocals.  It is super techno sounding.  The middle section is an instrumental with electronics that sound very Eastern (sped up, but that kind of scale).  It’s followed by some heavy guitars and pounding drums.  A ripping staccato guitar solo follows.  There’s even a few moments that sound like Sigur Rós.  Why the song “Black Original” didn’t make this album but is on the Japanese versions is a mystery to me.

“Spoon” 4:29 Opening with single keyboard notes over a pounding drums and distorted guitars, this song sung by Wata is fluid and catchy.  It’s the most shoegazey thing they’ve done so far.  There’s a total Stereolab vibe in this song.  The ending features a series of intense ascending chords.  The version on Attention Please has no synths, just shoegaze guitars.

“Pardon?” 6:00 The song opens with woozy electronic but soon changes to very gentle guitars and an almost jazzy bassline.  The whispered vocals are downright soothing.  There’s a trippy almost delicate guitar solo that runs through until the end.

“Jackson Head” 3:11 This is the most punk song on the record, but it’s electronic punk with very dark synths.  The lyrics are shouted with a repeated chant of “Jackson Head.”  The solo sounds like single, distorted snyth notes under the pulsing of the rhythm.  The version on Heavy Rocks is less synth menace, although it does sprinkle trippy synths throughout the song.

“Les Paul Custom ’86” 4:10 A whispered vocal over a thumping potential dance beat.  When Wata takes over vocals the song changes style, but only slightly.  Distant synths enter the song and try to install a melody on it, but it seems to be fighting everything else.  Wata’s spoken “echo” echos around your heads in a cool swirl (if you wear headphones).

“Tu, La La” 4:15 “Tu La La” has the best riff of any Boris song, It is fast and catchy and really interesting.  This version has strings that kind of overwhelm the greatness of the riff. (I prefer the version on Heavy Rocks)  The end of this version has an intense buildup of staccato strings.

“Looprider” 7:01 is a quiet song with a slow bassline and interesting guitar lines.   The last minute or so is fast synths, building and building with a siren effect that echoes the start of the album.

This is a pretty unexpected release from the band who created Heavy Rocks and Amplifier Worship, but I think it’s a great addition to their catalog.

For comparison sake:

Daymare LP Total length:       45:40

  1. “フレア (Vinyl Version)” (“Flare”; features introduction quoting the end of “Looprider”) 5:02
  2. “希望 -Hope-” 3:40
  3. “Party Boy (Vinyl Version)” 3:43
  4. “Black Original (Vinyl Version)” 4:33
  5. “Pardon?” 5:54
  6. “Spoon” 4:23
  7. “ジャクソンヘッド” (“Jackson Head”) 3:09
  8. “黒っぽいギター (Vinyl Version)” (“Dark Guitar”; English title “Les Paul Custom ’86”) 4:06
  9. “Tu, la la” 4:11
  10. “Looprider (Vinyl Version)” 6:59

Tearbridge CD Total length:       45:39

  1. “Party Boy” 3:49
  2. “希望 -Hope-” 3:43
  3. “フレア” (“Flare”) 4:21
  4. “Black Original” 4:27
  5. “Pardon?” 5:59
  6. “Spoon” 4:28
  7. “ジャクソンヘッド” (“Jackson Head”) 3:12
  8. “黒っぽいギター” (“Dark Guitar”; English title “Les Paul Custom ’86”) 4:09
  9. “Tu, la la” 4:15
  10. “Looprider” 7:13

[READ: February 5, 2016] “Fall River”

This was the 2015 New Yorker fiction issue.  It featured several stories and several one-page essays from writers I like.  The subject this time was “Time Travel.”

For this essay McGuane travels back to 1955 to his grandmother’s house in Fall River section of Boston.

He says there is little compassion between the duchies of this town.  The Irish Catholics dominate every neighborhood, with each having its own church.  But eventually Irish Catholic men like his uncles started showing interest in the Italian, French Canadian and Jewish girls–going so far as to marry some of them.

He wants to go back there to 1955 when there were half as many people and each town had its own personality.  The ragman is known as “the sheeny” and he imagines that the sheeny is a soon-to-be-famous sculptor.  He brings up a lot of other single incidents, like the “Portagee” boy who came to exact revenge on the author;s brother for breaking his arm.  Or how Emeril Lagasse comes from “up the Flint.”  There’s Cockney immigrants Down Almy Street who are known as “jicks” (a one-size-fits-all Irish insult). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NONAME-Tiny Desk Concert #609 (April 3, 2017).

Noname (born Fatimah Warner) is a wrapper and crooner.  her voice is pretty and her demeanor is infectiously upbeat.  Although I don’t really love her songs, I find her attitude infectious.

The blurb says

It’s in the way she’s able to muster a smile while performing a heartbreaking tale of abortion. It’s those sometimes bleak, melancholy lyrics over brilliant, colorful production.

“Diddy Bop” is a strange mix of gentle music (delicate guitar lines from Brian Sanborn meld with synthesized flutes) and rather vulgar lines:  There’s a line “you about to get your ass beat” and lots of “my niggas” thrown around.  Phoelix (bass) sings a verse as well.  The song is only two minutes long.

After it she says she has watched many Tiny Desk Concerts and she “Just wants to be as good as T-Pain.”

The second song is actually a medley.  It begins with “Reality Check” and then segues into “Casket Pretty,” and “Bye Bye Baby.”

She says “Reality Check” is her most straightforward song, but “it would be shitty if you were like ‘damn that made no sense either.'”  I normally speak “in like, scramble-think, so hopefully you guys follow it.” “Scramble-think” refers to the clever metaphors she weaves in detailing the many ways she’s dodged destiny.

Akenya Seymour (keys, vox) takes a verse in this song and Phoelix gets some backing vocals.

“Casket Pretty” is quite an evocative expression but she repeats the lyric an awful lot during the song.  The drums by Connor Baker are interesting throughout the set, but especially in this song.

She says that “Yesterday” is her favorite song on the tape.  It’s the first song she made.  It’s vulnerable and honest and she was surprised how much people liked it so she decided she had more sadness and vulnerability for her album.

[READ: January 20, 2017] “Constructed Worlds”

I enjoyed this story very much.  It is the story of a girl who is off to Harvard.  The story is set in the early 1990s–in the time of Discman and the beginning of e-mail.  It even opens with the fascinating line:

I didn’t know what e-mail was until I got to college. I had heard of e-mail, and knew that in some sense I would “have” it. “You’ll be so fancy,” said my mother’s sister, who had married a computer scientist, “sending your e-mails.”

The girl, Selin, has been hearing all about the World Wide Web from her father. He described that he was in the Met and one second later he was in Anitkabir in Ankara. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 7, 2016] Pearl Jam

2016-08-07 18.26.10After the excitement of seeing Pearl Jam at the Wells Fargo Center, we were psyched out of our minds to go to Fenway.  I didn’t realize that Fenway has a regular concert series.  I’d assumed that Pearl Jam were the first band to play there–they weren’t–but that didn’t detract in any way from the coolness of the venue.

Neither of us are baseball fans, although when I lived in Boston two decades ago, I did attend a couple of games at Fenway because it is a landmark (and when I was a kid I loved baseball, so duh).  But we knew that the venue would make the show even more special.

We’d have loved to have gone to both shows, but unlike some people, we couldn’t get tickets for both nights.  However, through a small piece of luck, I won tickets to a screening of Friday night’s show on Saturday night.  What?  Well, each night is filmed.  So the film crew filmed Friday night, then edited the footage together and had it ready on the next night as a really nicely edited package at the House of Blues (across the street from Fenway) on Saturday night.

It seemed kind of dumb to go to a music venue to watch a movie.  And Sarah and I were skeptical about going.  But we did and we had a  great time.  I’ve watched live DVDs and it’s always an okay thing to do–fun, but never like you were really there. But this was different. Having a group of some 600 people in a club–with bars and good lighting and excellent sound–it made it feel (almost) like a real concert.  And even though we laughed at the people who were clapping and cheering (as if the band were actually there), and taking videos of the screen (my battery died or I would have grabbed a few screen shots too), we were caught up in the excitement on several occasions as well. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 28, 2016] Pearl Jam

pjphilyWells Fargo Center is becoming one of my favorite venues.  Not because the acoustics are so good (although they are pretty good), but because now I’ve seen three of my favorite concerts there: Rush, Muse and now Pearl Jam.

I’ve been a fan of Pearl Jam for nearly their entire 25 years of existence.  I loved their first few albums, lost my way a bit in the late 1990s and then came back big time in 2001 when I enjoyed listening to their Live bootleg series.   Their live shows sounded amazing–super long, playing different songs every night–and making all of their songs sound more alive than on record.  They just sounded amazing.

And yet I had never seen them.  I should probably have gone on the 2003 tour but didn’t.  And then I met Sarah and Pearl Jam was one of her favorite bands, but she’d never seen them either.  Since we’ve been married they’ve toured near us 6 times.  We had some excuses of little babies for a couple of those tours, but we should have certainly gone in 2013.

Well, here it is, their 25th anniversary tour and Sarah and I finally got to see them.  And, although I do wish we’d gone before, was it ever worth the wait. (more…)

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ny ayg4SOUNDTRACK: PRIMUS-Frizzle Fry (1990).

frizIt always made me laugh that this album opens exactly the same as Suck on This–with the opening drums to Rush’s “YYZ.” But it quickly bends into the propulsive bass of “To Defy the Laws of Tradition.”  For many, this was their first listen to Primus, and hearing the crazy noise of Ler’s guitar come roaring out of the speakers followed by Les’ insane bass line and Tim’s wild drumming–it’s unlike anything I’ve heard before or since.  And then later to hear the tapping of the bass notes during the chorus–it’s certainly defying laws of rock tradition.

The lyrics of “To Defy” are interesting to me (if Christmas didn’t come, who would cry more the child or the stores?).  I also always loved the lyrics of “Groundhog’s Day” (“lingering taste of toothpaste made the milk go down a bit funny”).  I like the fidelity of this recording better than Suck on This (all five re-recorded songs actually).  This song also gives Ler a lot of pace for a long solo. “Too Many Puppies” is one of the earliest song  Les wrote (although I believe it was different in speed at the time).  It is a loud song in which Ler’s guitar stays hidden for a while then bursts forth full of noise and chaos at opportune moments.

“Mr. Knowitall” is also full of great lyrics (“they call me mr know it all, i am so eloquent, perfection is my middle name and whatever rhymes with eloquent”) and a really groovy bass with interesting “lead” guitar work.  I feel like the drums get a prominent place in “Frizzle Fry” (the drums are great all the way through, but they really shine here).  Of course the fast section at 4:40 is pretty amazing, too.

The opening to “John the Fisherman” is different than on Suck on This and it is crazy the sounds he get out of that bass. The quality of this recording (and the video) are great.

“You Can’t Kill Michael Malloy” is  26 second piece that was composed and performed by Matt Winegar (according to the Primus book the song is actually much longer and Les wishes he had played the whole thing here).  It leads to the slow intro of “The Toys Go Winding Down” which features one of my favorite triplet-filled bass lines ever.  It also features some great bowed bass from Les.

I love that “Pudding Time” opens with such a great amount of noise and that the bass is actually more of a percussive instrument for the verses.  “Sathington Willoughby” is another weird little song (25 seconds) that gave them a chance to play with banjos.  It serves as a great intro to the wild drums of “Spaghetti Western.”  This is the strangest song on the disc (which is saying a lot).  It’s almost an instrumental with Les reciting a little story about watching Spaghetti Westerns on TV (the way the boots are all reverbed out).

“Harold of the Rocks” is such a great song and this version sounds great–you can really hear what Ler is doing.  It ends the album in a fun way.

Frizzle Fry is still one of my favorite albums, and it still sounds totally weird and unique all these decades later.  I was marveling at how long this album is and how long many of the songs are–quite an auspicious “debut.”

[READ: January 5, 2015] “Action”

I have basically blown off the New Yorker since last summer and have now made it my resolution to read all the issues I missed from last year in a timely fashion.  So here I’m starting with August.

I often like Paul Theroux’s stories, although I don’t really have a sense of his style overall.  This story proved to be very simple but incredibly detailed.

It is about a boy, Albert, who works for his father in his shoe store.  Albert’s father was a widower and a very economical man–he would often only speak in one word sentences, especially to Albert (“‘Where?’ meaning, “Where have you been?'”).  His father worried about him, but didn’t really show it.  Rather, he monitored everything that Albert did.  He made sure that Albert was working most of the time that he wasn’t in school (even when the store wasn’t busy).  So Albert had no social life.

Albert did have one friend (whom his father greatly disapproved of) named Eddie.  Albert liked Eddie especially because Eddie often said “I’m a wicked bad influence.”  Eddie knew all about Boston and showed Albert around to places that his father would have been very upset by.  Of course, Albert had no money so he never went in these places, he just knew of them.  Eddie also introduced Albert to his “girl” Paige, whom he described as easy. (more…)

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grantladn4SOUNDTRACK: BAD RELIGION-“Fuck You” (2012).

badrelIt’s hard to believe that Bad Religion has been around for thirty years and has never written a song called “Fuck You” before.  Typically they write songs with more profound lyrics.  So I guess this is kind of lazy.  But it’s still fun.

Bad Religion write (mostly) blistering punk songs in under three minutes   They have of course written longer songs, but mostly they do these quick tracks.  Despite the blister, Bad Religion also love harmonies and backing vocals–and for a punk band, they are quite melodious.

After all these years, the band still sounds good.  It’s true that it’s kind of hard to tell when certain songs were recorded as a lot of their music sounds similar.  However, on this track I think the middle slower part sounds like it might be a newer, fuller sound.  But still, when you get to the chorus, it’s hard not to recognize that old time Bad Religion.

[READ: December 26, 2012] “Denny Coughlin”

I have come not to expect too much from the fiction in Grantland.  It’s usually a fine story but not much more.  And that’s okay–I don’t think sports stories can be all that original–you either win or lose, right?

This story did things a little differently   It’s about prisoners playing hockey.  I didn’t even catch on that they were prisoners right away–I liked that the story doesn’t spoon feed the details, it just got right to the action.  Anyhow, in a prison in Walpole, MA, the prisoners from Southie would face the guys from Charlestown twice a week in the yard.

There were only two rules.  1) No injuries–if you get hurt, tend to yourself.  The guards are sick of people in the infirmary.  And 2) the ball is in play wherever it goes, even under the bench that the guards sit on.  The guards know to get up if the ball goes there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: INFINITE JEST-“Determinism, But I Mean It When I Say It” and more (2012).

I admit I didn’t know this band existed until I Googled Infinite Jest music about five minutes ago, because, yes, I wanted to put a thematic song here.  Imagine my surprise that there’s a band called Infinite Jest (and that they are based in Boston).

Infinite Jest are an electronic duo (their site says they specialize in live shows with mind-bending visuals).  All of their songs are available for download on their site.  I picked this one because I liked the title (I was honestly hoping for a song title or two that referenced the book, but alas).

All of the music is electronic, but it’s not bass-heavy dance style–it’s more spacey electronic (the kind that I like).  I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the genre, but i like it from time to time and most of this stuff is pretty cool. I rather prefer the instrumentals, although some of the songs with processed and autotuned vocals are okay.  The track “Fuck” uses a sample of a scream which I would have guessed was Trent Reznor, but I assume anyone can scream like that.  They’ve even made a video for their song “Cuddling.”  Like Infinite Boston it shows scenes from around Boston, only set to music.  You can hear and see it all at their website .

[VIEWED: July 2012] Infinite Boston

For fans of Infinite Jest, William Beutler has created a very exciting project: Infinite Boston.

Infinite Jest is set in the Boston Area, specifically in Enfield, a fictional town that is located around Allston and Brighton, MA.  Many people have taken photos of interesting locations (fictional and otherwise) in the Brighton area, but none have approached this task with the steely-eyed determination of Beutler. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS-Legend (1984).

I’m white, so that means I own a copy of this CD (according to the book below).  And I do, because it’s mandatory in college that you play “Jammin'” at every party.

Now, I like ska (yup, still).  I know that ska came from reggae, but to me reggae is just boring ska.  I couldn’t agree more with Barney on How I Met Your Mother:

Ted: Oh, get this, she plays bass in a reggae band. They’re having a show this Friday. How cool is that?

Barney: Oh, does she know that one song? Mm-hm chaka, mm-hm chaka. What’s that song called? Oh, right, it’s called every reggae song.

Although in fairness, listening to this again, it is a rather nice album (I guess I know every song).  I have a personal aversion to some of the really overplayed songs, like “One Love” (because if you go to any Caribbean location they all act like it’s the official slogan of hot weather.  We even have a Christmas ornament from St. John that says “One Love”  WTF?  And I don’t think anyone needs a 7 minute version of “No Woman No Cry.”

But some of the lesser played its (“Could You Be Loved” and just about anything with The Wailers backing him are pretty great).  Although I’ve got to admit I can’t take more than a few songs.  I had to skip through some of the last songs (thank goodness I don’t have the 2 disc version).

[READ: July 26, 2012] Whiter Shades of Pale

Christian Lander created the blog Stuff White People Like.  It was very funny (it hasn’t been updated since Feb 2011, so let’s assume it has run its course).

Lander had released a first book of SWPL back in 2008.  I didn’t read it (blog to book deals were overwhelming in 2008), but I had seen enough of the site to assume it was funny.  One of the funnier jokes when the blog first came out was wondering if the creator was white or not.  (Well, the author photo gives that away, but I won’t).

We grabbed this book at a Borders going out of business sale (sorry Borders, you are missed).  This book continues where the first book left off (I gather).  I don’t know if every entry from the blog made it into the book (the thanks at the end of the book lead me to think not), but I have to assume most of them made it (and maybe there is new stuff in the book too?) (more…)

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rapperSOUNDTRACK: SCHOOLLY D-Smoke Some Kill (1988).

schoolySince this disc is featured so prominently in Signifying Rappers (and the book is named after the best track on this disc) I thought I’d dust it off and listen to it again.  I got this disc probably in 1989 at the suggestion of my friend Al.  He recommended “No More Rock N’ Roll,” I think.

I haven’t listened to the disc in years, probably a decade.  The last time I listened, I think I wasn’t all that impressed by it, which is why it’s funny to me how much significance the book gives this disc/track.  In listening again, I felt more or less the way I did last time, although interestingly, after reading the book, I agreed that some of the tracks are pretty good.

“Signifying Rapper” in particular, seemed better after DFW’s analysis of it (he discusses it in the tradition of the trickster narrator, and I agree it’s a good one).  Although, at one point in the book DFW decries the misogyny in a lot of rap, but he doesn’t mention the homophobia.  And, despite the trickster style in this song, the homophobia is pretty outrageous (even if, in a surprising twist, the “faggot” kicks the “pimp’s” ass).  But really, the thing that upsets the pimp so much, that he went off to fight the faggot about is this rather absurdly childish set of insults:  your dad’s a faggot, your mom’s a whore, your granny’s a dyke and your brother’s a faggot too.  Now, homophobia aside, would these insults really get anyone so angry?   Hard to say.   But regardless of the whole thing, the song is set to the riff from Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” so, that’s pretty fun.

The rest of the disc is a mix of kind of lame tracks and a few good ones.  “Here We Go Again” has some great scratching on it (in fact the scratching throughout the disc is quite good), and there’s some really good background samples on “Gangster Boogie II.”  Although I think the best tracks come near the end: “Treacherous” (which samples or reinterprets Gil Scot-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Televised”) and “Black Man” which features the cool shout-out “What’s the Word?  Johannesburg!).

A few tracks are kind of flat.  “Mr Big Dick,” is, at best, silly and even the title track “Smoke Some Kill” is sort of uninspired.  What’s interesting about somewhat flat style is that this disc has come out after Public Enemy’s wall of sound changed the face of rap.  But Schoolly is sticking with the very sparse Run D.M.C. style.  The difference is that with Run, you had two vocalists, but Schoolly is by himself.  It’s just not quite as exciting.

And, then there’s the aforementioned “No More Rock N’ Roll” which is a companion to “We Don’t Rock, We Rap”.  The whole anti-rock trope rings hollow especially since he samples from it so freely.

It was still early days, but rap has progressed pretty far from this CD.  It also turns out that this disc is really hard to find.  It’s discontinued and lists on Amazon for $50.  How lucky for me!

[READ: October 2, 2009] Signifying Rappers

I wasn’t planning on reading this book this soon.  (I’m  not turning into a DFW addict, I swear).  But this showed up all because of the whims of the interlibrary loan system.  I put holds on books for people all the time, and usually it’s for new, popular books, so it’s often several weeks, sometimes months before the books come in.  I tend to forget that a 19 year old book that nobody is clamoring to read will show up in about 3 days.

So, those of you thinking about reading this book because you want to complete the DFW ouvre were probably wondering if this co-authored book should really count.  And, like, how would you know what he wrote?  Well, I didn’t immediately figure out the patently obvious system that they used in the book: When Mark Costello writes a section it is introduced with a large M.  When DFW gets a section it starts with a large D (see, obvious).   You can also tell because DFW’s section are laden with footnotes and very large words (no, really?)

I think for all readers, the main question is what are these two white, educated, twentysomethings doing writing about rap.  And, they both answer in their own way that, well, they like rap.  A lot.  In fact, DFW goes on to say that rap circa 1989 is the only musical genre that is interesting after some five years of commercial pap (and he’s pretty accurate with that, actually).  He also notes that as of their writing of the book there had been no real in-depth treatises written on rap.  Oh, and lastly, in the spirit of rap itself, they did it because they wanted to do it. (more…)

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