Shot Of Rhythm

[ Saturday, February 24, 2007 ]


Previews of coming attractions

Here are representative tracks from a few of the upcoming releases that have already found their way into the cyber-mix.

Hanson's track - which is the first single from their new record - is not only their best song since "Where Is The Love," but it's about as good a pop/rock single as I've heard in at least a year. The kids are alright...

Hanson - "The Great Divide," from THE WALK

Bryan Ferry is soon to release an album of Bob Dylan covers (titled, quite brilliantly, DYLANESQUE). Even though my tolerance for Ferry's trademark tremolo-heavy vocal style is middling at best, I must admit being quite taken with his fresh takes on songs that - for good reason - have become a central element in the rock-era Talmud.

Bryan Ferry - "Positively 4th Street," from DYLANESQUE

I was a big fan of the Kings Of Leon's debut album, but thought their last one was a marked step backward. Judging by what I've heard so far, their third release doesn't quite reach the height of their first, but is definitely a step in the right, soulful direction for these rocking Tennessee eccentrics.

Kings Of Leon - "On Call," from BECAUSE OF THE TIMES

Finally, Ozomatli returns not a moment too soon. DON'T MESS WITH THE DRAGON isn't quite the monumental achievement of their last full-length, but its communal vibe and musical creativity matches its lofty predecessor, and the Afro/Latin/Asian collective from Los Angeles make a further case for their status as the true sounds of the new American century.

Ozomatli - "Don't Mess With The Dragon," from DON'T MESS WITH THE DRAGON

On the box right now: Ozomatli, DON'T MESS WITH THE DRAGON.


Dove With Claws [10:01 AM]

[ Monday, February 19, 2007 ]


Bring the noise

When I was the Teaching Assistant for a university course on black music history last year, one of my favorite class discussions centered around Public Enemy. Not only are the socio-political contexts surrounding the group's rise (and fall) as meaty as any in modern American race politics, but the class gave me the chance to lodge further entries in a few of my continuing pet projects, of which regulars on this blog are aware. First, there's my ongoing "Flavor Flav is not just a reality TV buffoon" campaign, which "911 Is A Joke" and Flav's mighty solo single "The Hot 1" usually help to dispel. Second, there's the amazingly widespread ignorance of PE's work among the young generation, even those of whom consider themselves hip-hop heads: out of 100 students, only a handful admitted to being Public Enemy fans, a situation that would've seemed flat-out impossible even a decade ago. Third, there's my strong-and-fast belief that PE is the greatest rap-rock group of all time, whose collaboration with Anthrax on "Bring The Noise" is the real birth of rap-metal crossover. (Sorry, "Walk This Way" is cool, but this is where the true sonic foundation of the blend was coalesced.)

In fact, when I was introducing this concept to the students, I made the rather glib, but very sincere, statement that Public Enemy wasn't only one of my favorite rap groups of all time, but they were also quite possibly my favorite heavy metal group ever. Noting the quizzical looks from around the room, I explained that the bracing, blasting mixture of chaos, anarchy and righteous indignation that makes PE's classics so damn classic, and made The Bomb Squad one of the most sought-after production crews in pop music for a few years, is as much informed by the fuzzed-out thrashing of hard rock as it is by the jazz-disco-reggae alchemy of early hip-hop. I played a few examples, and at least a few of the folks seemed to get my point.

Of course, I really wish I'd had this new PE live album, FIGHT THE POWER, as evidence for my skeptically-recieved argument. Recorded over the last few years, with the crucial element of having a powerful live band behind them, Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Professor Griff and Terminator X are at full-blast, roaring through their greatest songs (from over the course of their career) with a fire and ferocity that belies every stereotype about the graceful aging of Chuck into the role of respected elder, as well as Flav's cartoonish insanity. This is big, bold music that - like all great rock and roll - is best played with speakers turned to 11. Even if this doesn't replace Public Enemy's classic work, it's a mighty fine memento of the full breadth of their roof-shaking assertion. And, on top of everything, it fuckin' rocks!

Tear the roof off the sucker...

"Son Of A Bush"

"Shut 'Em Down"

"Fight The Power"/"Soul Power"

On the box right now: Paul Simon, GRACELAND.


Dove With Claws [1:27 PM]