Five Songs, 4/17/2017
It has been pointed out that I should probably have comments enabled on this blog. I'll see what I can do about turning those on, although fiddling around with Ghost kind of makes me want to turn myself into a ghost. In the meantime, we soldier on! As always, you can listen along here.
Ugly Duckling, "Pay or Quit"
Ugly Duckling is a bit of an odd band, a proud throwback rap group that tries to recall a percieved golden age, with the result that they seem really disconnected from other rap acts. This ends up giving them a bit of a sui generis feel, which is dumb for a band that is explicitly trying to reference and revive the past of their musical genre. Well, whatever. Expect lots of loops, trading the mic back and forth, word-play focused rhymes, and a total lack of profanity. When the formula works, it can be pretty lively, bouncy fun. When it drags, it drags painfully.
This track, however, is a throwaway interstitial thing on the album Audacity, which isn't their strongest work. So I've thrown in a couple of songs of them at the top of their form, "Andy vs. Dizzy" and "A Little Samba", the former a goof on battle raps and the latter a goof on rappers bragging about their fantastic lives. If you like those, the first record is the place to start, Journey to Anywhere, with Bang for the Buck being next. Taste the Secret is a concept record envisioning a horrible fast food place that serves mostly, um, meatshakes, and is notable mostly for how shamelessly dumb it is while also still managing to occasionally be very funny.
Future of the Left, "a guide to men"
Future of the Left is Andrew Falkous's band after the breakup of the great Mclusky. If you're familiar with the latter and haven't heard of the former, you're in for a treat! If you haven't heard of either, you're in for double treats! Possibly! HOT TREATS FOR EVERYBODY!
"Post-hardcore" is a genre label that gets thrown around a lot, and as far as I can tell, is mostly referring to loud underground music that cropped up after the initial bands of hardcore punk started going away. So, Fugazi, basically. It isn't the most illuminating of genre labels. Why do I bring it up now? Because basically every review of Future of the Left refers to them as a post-hardcore band, even though their debut album was in 2007. Maybe because Mclusky was recorded by Steve Albini, and you can follow that chain...who knows. At any rate, Future of the Left is very much in that Chicago underground vein, with pounding, distorted bass, plenty of noise, lots of shouting, and space to appreciate the drums. Future of the Left often adds some nice memorable keyboard lines to the proceedings. Excellent band on a consistent winning streak, with the album this comes from, The Plot Against Common Sense, as good a starting point as any.
Hammerhead was one of the best bands on the great noise rock label Amphetamine Reptile Records. Maybe the only piece of clothing I've ever regretted losing was the AmRep logo hat that I wore all over Europe that inexplicably disappeared. I looked like a serious dirtbag in that thing, as my hair was also as long as it's ever been at the time I owned that hat. I think some photo evidence of it exists somewhere.
Well, anyway, Hammerhead started out with the solid Ethereal Killer, and then followed up with the masterful Into the Vortex, the best thing AmRep ever put out - yes, better than the first Helmet album, better than Tar's Jackson, better than all those great Cows records. It's a kaleidoscope of scraping, howling guitars, menacing bass, and frantic drums that all sounds like it's perpetually about to fly apart. And when it all sounds locked in, it somehow sounds even scarier. This song is an instrumental from Evil Twin, the EP they put out after that album, and it's more of the same great stuff. They had one more album in them before calling it quits, and are one of those rare bands that stopped too soon.
The Avalanches, "Sunshine"
Well, time to change moods, apparently. The Avalanches are an electronic group that makes pastiches and collages of mostly soul music, assembling new tunes that are as bright and cheerful as Hammerhead is dour and angry. They put out Since I Left You in 2000, a gorgeous listen all the way through, and then disappeared. But last year, they popped back up with a new record, Wildflower. It's, sadly, not as good as the first album, while still having many gorgeous moments on it. There are a number of guest artists popping up, and they mostly distract from the music rather than enhance it. This song, though, is one of the good ones on the new record.
MF Doom, "Fig Leaf Bi-Carbonate"
MF Doom, one of rap's great weirdos, has put out albums under a ridiculous assortment of pseudonyms and band names, making him hard to keep track of. And even under his own name, there's a bunch of stuff to try and make sense of. This is from one of his proper albums, Mm...Food, maybe his best under his own name. Laden with cartoon samples and elliptical versus, it's a dense, strange record. I'm sure he'll be popping up plenty later, so I'll just let people enjoy this sample-fest of a track, and we'll return to him another day.