11 May 2010

Gang of Four - Entertainment! (1979)

I suppose for a little while I'll just post some of my personal favourite albums. This will continue for a while; it started with The Stooges' Funhouse.

From allmusic (5/5):

"Entertainment! is one of those records where germs of influence can be traced through many genres and countless bands, both favorably and unfavorably. From groups whose awareness of genealogy spreads wide enough to openly acknowledge Gang of Four's influence (Fugazi, Rage Against the Machine), to those not in touch with their ancestry enough to realize it (rap-metal, some indie rock) -- all have appropriated elements of their forefathers' trailblazing contribution. Its vaguely funky rhythmic twitch, its pungent, pointillistic guitar stoccados, and its spoken/shouted vocals have all been picked up by many. Lyrically, the album was apart from many of the day, and it still is. The band rants at revisionist history in "Not Great Men" ("No weak men in the books at home"), self-serving media and politicians in "I Found That Essence Rare" ("The last thing they'll ever do?/Act in your interest"), and sexual politics in "Damaged Goods" ("You said you're cheap but you're too much"). Though the brilliance of the record thrives on the faster material -- especially the febrile first side -- a true highlight amongst highlights is the closing "Anthrax," full of barely controlled feedback squalls and moans. It's nearly psychedelic, something post-punk and new wave were never known for. With a slight death rattle and plodding bass rumble, Jon King equates love with disease and admits to feeling "like a beetle on its back." In the background, Andy Gill speaks in monotone of why Gang of Four doesn't do love songs. Subversive records of any ilk don't get any stronger, influential, or exciting than this."

Get it here.

06 May 2010

Nas - Illmatic (1994)

The most cogent argument for hip-hop ever, IMO. No skits, only one guest appearance (which happens to be one of the best guest verses ever).

From allmusic (5/5):

"Often cited as one of the best hip-hop albums of the '90s, Illmatic is the undisputed classic upon which Nas' reputation rests. It helped spearhead the artistic renaissance of New York hip-hop in the post-Chronic era, leading a return to street aesthetics. Yet even if Illmatic marks the beginning of a shift away from Native Tongues-inspired alternative rap, it's strongly rooted in that sensibility. For one, Nas employs some of the most sophisticated jazz-rap producers around: Q-Tip, Pete Rock, DJ Premier, and Large Professor, who underpin their intricate loops with appropriately tough beats. But more importantly, Nas takes his place as one of hip-hop's greatest street poets — his rhymes are highly literate, his raps superbly fluid regardless of the size of his vocabulary. He's able to evoke the bleak reality of ghetto life without losing hope or forgetting the good times, which become all the more precious when any day could be your last. As a narrator, he doesn't get too caught up in the darker side of life — he's simply describing what he sees in the world around him, and trying to live it up while he can. He's thoughtful but ambitious, announcing on "N.Y. State of Mind" that "I never sleep, 'cause sleep is the cousin of death," and that he's "out for dead presidents to represent me" on "The World Is Yours." Elsewhere, he flexes his storytelling muscles on the classic cuts "Life's a Bitch" and "One Love," the latter a detailed report to a close friend in prison about how allegiances within their group have shifted. Hip-hop fans accustomed to 73-minute opuses sometimes complain about Illmatic's brevity, but even if it leaves you wanting more, it's also one of the few '90s rap albums with absolutely no wasted space. Illmatic is a great lyricist, in top form, meeting great production, and it remains a perennial favorite among serious hip-hop fans."

Some of my favourite lines:

"I woke up early on my born day, I'm twenty years of blessing

The essence of adolescence leaves my body now I'm fresh in

My physical frame is celebrated cause I made it

One quarter through life some God-ly like thing created" - "Life's a Bitch"

"I took the L when he passed it, this little bastard

Keeps me blasted he starts talkin mad shit

I had to school him, told him don't let niggas fool him

'Cause when the pistol blows that's when the murdered be the cool one

Tough luck when niggas are struck, families fucked up

Could've cought your man, but didn't look when you bucked up

Mistakes happen, so take heed never bust up

At the crowd catch him solo, make the right man bleed

Shorty's laugh was cold blooded as he spoke so foul

Only twelve trying to tell me that he liked my style

Then I rose, wiping the blunts ash from my clothes

Then froze only to blow the herb smoke through my nose" - "One Love"

"Fuck 'rap is real', watch the herbs stand still

Never talkin to snakes cause the words of man kill

True in the game, as long as blood is blue in my veins

I pour my Heineken brew to my deceased crew on memory lane" - "Memory Lane (Sittin' in da Park)

03 May 2010

Last fm... do you have one?

Friend us on last fm

The Stooges - Funhouse [Deluxe Edition] (1970)

One of my all-time faves. Like, we're talking Top 15 Albums of All Time-material.

From allmusic (5/5):

"The Stooges' first album was produced by a classically trained composer who dabbled in rock & roll and the avant-garde; their second was supervised by a guy who had once been the keyboard player with the Kingsmen, and if that didn't make all the difference, it at least indicates why Fun House was a step in the right direction right out of the gate. Producer Don Gallucci took the sensible approach that the Stooges were a powerhouse live band, and his best bet was to re-create the group's live set with as little fuss as possible. As a result, the production on Fun House bears some resemblance to the Kingsmen's version of "Louie Louie" -- the sound is smeary and bleeds all over the place, but it packs the low-tech wallop of a concert pumped through a big PA, bursting with energy and immediacy. The Stooges were also a much stronger band this time out; Ron Asheton's blazing minimalist guitar runs had gained little in the way of technique since The Stooges, but his confidence had grown by a quantum leap as he summoned forth the sounds that would make him the hero of proto-punk guitarists everywhere, and the brutal pound of drummer Scott Asheton and bassist Dave Alexander had grown to heavyweight champion status. And Fun House is where Iggy Pop's mad genius first reached its full flower; what was a sneer on the band's debut had grown into the roar of a caged animal desperate for release, and his rants were far more passionate and compelling than what he had served up before. The Stooges may have had more "hits," but Fun House has stronger songs, including the garage raver to end all garage ravers in "Loose," the primal scream of "1970," and the apocalyptic anarchy of "L.A. Blues." In 2005, Rhino Records released a deluxe edition of Fun House that gave the album a long-needed remastering for CD, and included a bonus disc of alternate takes from the original recording sessions. The additional disc isn't especially revelatory for hardcore fans, since everything on it (except for a very raw demo of "Loose") appeared on the box set 1970: The Complete Fun House Sessions, including the hilarious single mix of "Down on the Street" (with a neo-Ray Manzarek keyboard part clumsily overdubbed over the top), two songs that didn't make the final cut of the album, and Iggy imitating his favorite wrestler. But given the fact the 1970 box is out of print (and commanding big bucks on eBay), the bonus disc does a nice job of condensing its material and summing up how this Fun House took shape, and the remastering of the original album makes it sound as loud and proud on CD as it deserves. Fun House is the ideal document of the Stooges at their raw, sweaty, howling peak, and this expanded edition only adds to the album's glorious fury."

Get it here, before it most likely gets taken down.

02 May 2010

D.C. Record Fair - "almost summertime edition" - 23 May / rambling

Dunno how many of you all are in the D.C. area, but yo, if you are, you HAVE to go to this Record Fair.

I don't feel like re-writing the details of the whole thing, so here's the facebook post.

This blogging thing was looking kinda like it was going to end soon, but standing in line with a hundred other people to get into a record store, talking about new releases and such...well to put it shortly, it rekindled my interest in this blog thing. Well, that, and the closure of one of my favourite blogs, Radiobutt Music. The final post there was depressing, and made me want to continue a blog in the wake of Blogger crucially shutting these down. An excerpt from RBM's last post:

"..There is much more to life than music. There is much more to music than pop music...Music takes away our precious time from thinking, reading, and living a real life. At a certain point one should decide to stop entertaining oneself to death..."

So yeah, I'm going to try to do this when I can. There will be periods of no posts, but the second I listen to or rediscover something special, I'll make sure to let ya'll know.

But I digress. Back to this record fair.

I'm gonna go. I couldn't get too much crate-digging done on Record Store Day, as everything I wanted had already sold out (e.g. Gorillaz' "White Flag" single, some Exile on Main Street-era 'Stones demo or something, etc; at least I got the pink vinyl reissue of Sonic Youth's EVOL).

If you're going, leave a comment or somethin'. Maybe we could meet up, trade mix cds or something.