Zombie Politics

I drank your milkshake.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Leaked Shit

A bunch of high profile albums leaked this weekend. Still, two of the year’s most anticipated (by me, at least) records, Clipse’s “Hell Hath No Fury” and Gwen’s “The Sweet Escape” remain, sadly, aloof. But I’m not here to talk about what DIDN’T permeate the ether but what DID. Lil’ reviews of two of those albums follow (I was going to review the new Deerhoof but it would have problem just been the words “fucking weird” over and over and over again). DISCLAIMER: The new All Saints album is better than anything mentioned in this column.



Jay Z, “Kingdom Come”

Y’all are now tuned into the motherfuckin’ greatest… Or at least how the lyric went three years ago. The question remains: after a high-profile exit and equally high-profile reentry, does Hova still have what it takes? The answer is yes, to at least a certain extent. The production duties have been doled out to all the big-time players, except for whoever did “Hollywood,” and the results are typically grandiose: big synths, expensive samples, the usual. Although I feel like he’s lost a lot of his edge, Rick Rubin’s “99 Problems” on “The Black Album” was a highlight. And the question remains: where the balls was Timbaland? The two of them make such beautiful music together. I mean, let’s look at the track record: “Big Pimpin’,” “Dirt of Your Shoulders,” “The Bounce.” Even on sub-par albums, they bring the fucking heat (like “What They Gonna Do” on “Blueprint 2”). Still, Timbo’s nowhere to be found. It’s a borderline tragedy. Luckily for us, Timbaland has a bangin’ new single out with Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake, his 2006 all stars, that serves as our first slice from his solo project.

Anyway…

I still think it’s a solid record, just not the Album of the Year we were hoping for (hell, it’s not even the Rap Album of the Year – that distinction’d go to Lupe Fiasco’s brilliant “Food & Liquor” with Pitbull’s “El Mariel” following closely behind).

The Dr. Dre productions more or less steal the show, with the contemplative “Lost Ones,” the controversial “Minority Report” and the club-bangin’ “Trouble” equally powerful (in different ways). The Neptunes song is alright, although those tinny beats are starting to wear thin, and Kanye West’s joint is nice enough but lacks the gee-whiz mastery of his song on The Game’s new album; the rest are stock, B-tier rap songs… UNTIL the Chris Martin song. He’s attempted entry to the hip hop game on numerous occasions, most notably his failed stabs at entry onto albums by Jamelia, Nelly Furtado, and The Streets (his record label vetoed his vocal involvement each time, even though he retained songwriting credit). Here, he’s finally able to do it. And he does it spectacularly. As an end to an album, “Beach Chair” beautiful; as a song on Jay Z’s much lauded comeback album, it’s genuinely awe-worthy. It’s also the most perfect song on a decidedly imperfect album.



Bloc Party, “A Weekend in the City”

People talk about the sophomore slump but how about the sophomore bore?

GOD DAMN THIS ALBUM IS DISAPPOINTING.

Things start off well enough, with swelling atmospherics, big-ass drums and robo-voices galore. But then, towards the end of the first half, you realize that you haven’t gotten a hook, chorus, or riff even remotely as catchy or memorable as anything off of “Silent Alarm.” Then you think about “Two Years Off,” the in-between single that now rests in the netherworld of the one-off, and how comparably catchy and hooky THAT was (and the remixes by The Streets and MSTRKRFT… So fucking good…) And at about this moment that you realize how vacant the first half has been, well, the second half seeps in and things become really slow and emotional and, yes, boring. A wide-screen ender, “SXRT,” does little to lift our spirits (and works in a kind of opposite way that “Beach Chair” did): instead it shows us what the album could have been but wasn’t. In my estimation, it’s a complete and utter failure.

I think one of the big reasons is that they switched producers. Instead of relying on the expert knob twiddling of Paul Epworth, who helped make the new Rapture album so magical, they turned to Jacknife Lee, who produced U2’s “Elevation” and can be held responsible for letting Bono say “1, 2, 3, 14” in Spanish. Typical of anyone even remotely associated with U2, the results are uninspired.

After citing influences like Isolee and Amerie’s “1 Thing” (both of which are way more exciting and haven’t informed anything on the album as far as I can tell), lead singer Kele Okereke told Pitchfork: I think Paul's a great guy, a great producer, but it probably wouldn't have done us any favors working with the same producer two albums in a row," Okereke said. "We're trying to work with different people, it gives you different aspects of your sound, which is really crucial."

No, no favors; just would have made an album you’d actually enjoy listening to. Which brings up my point: WHEN IN DOUBT, WORK WITH PAUL EPWORTH.

There have been some pretty great second albums of late (Scissor Sisters, Ratatat, The Magic Numbers) and these have been able to expand their original sound while staying true but also evolving. A good example of this, particularly in this genre, was Franz Ferdinand’s “You Could Have Had it So Much Better.” That’s a great fucking album. And not a lot changed from the first one. They were a little more beat-heavy (and Beatles-inspired) but fairly true to themselves, having fun - - and it was released within 18 months of the first one! Now that’s a fucking feat.

On a positive note, I really like the album art.

1 Comments:

Blogger Radio Free Burke said...

I am glad the new Bloc Party sucks - hopefully people will stop talking about Bloc Party. I just don't care a bout Jay-Z. He is a lamer. Somewhere in my blog is an anti-Hov screed. Read it and weep. You should have reviewed the new Deerhoof, it is tight. The new Clipse is gonna rule, I have no worries about it.

1:38 AM  

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