nate patrin.


RANDOM ACTS #2: PUNKS V. HORNS V. SYNTHS
November 8, 2007, 3:21 pm
Filed under: Music | Tags:

I’ve spent the last couple weeks’ worth of listening enveloped in the ’70s — mixtape craziness forthcoming; watch this space — and/or review stuff (new Saul Williams = baffling but fascinating; Nas best-of = WTF @ no “Halftime”?), along with the occasional podcast of Scharpling-centric hilarity. Shuffle mode should be some kind of relief.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Warrior” (from Show Your Bones, 2006): But it’s not. The problem with this kind of chance-driven reactive reviewing is that there’s a high possibility I’ll wind up confronted by stuff I haven’t gotten around to hearing and therefore have to go by a gut reaction, which in a context like this is frequently impatient and unfair. In this case, I almost had to struggle between two initial assessments — “pretty if unpolished” and “bo-ring” — but the way the song goes from sparse and acoustic to this full, driving rock sound is enough to redeem it, even if I suspect I’d be less charitable of the whole song sounded like one half or another. It does become a bit more obvious how ragged Karen O’s voice is without a full band behind it and how fierce it is with one, so that transformative dynamic pretty much makes the song for me.

Dead Kennedys, “I Am the Owl” (from Plastic Surgery Disasters, 1982): Except for maybe the Doors, few bands have really lost so much during my transition from 17 to 30 than the Dead Kennedys. Unlike the whole Doors thing, though — which was largely an issue of finding artists who did their on-wax schtick smarter/better/funnier (Blue Öyster Cult; Patti Smith… uh… Depeche Mode, I guess) — my falling out with the DKs was more of a matter of realizing that while they were fucking top-notch at what they did, what they did was often at odds with what I had grown to want from music. The problem is Jello Biafra, whose borderline-paranoid (but not really) stabs at Reagan-era government and societal conformity still ring fairly true but are supplemented with this lunkheaded condescension when it comes to popular culture (see, if you listen to metal or any other music about just having a good time, you’re just like a citizen under the Third Reich!). It’s gotten hard for me to listen to the Biafra that dismantles fundamentalist conservatism and governmental perfidy — or, in this case, COINTELPRO tactics and invasion of privacy (on the same album as torture-horror track “Bleed for Me” — this album is 25 years old?) — and not simultaneously hear, in that same voice, the patronizing sneer that tried to connect preppies with Springsteen the year Nebraska came out and thought it’d be a boffo laff to compare disco to the Holocaust. (D. Boon had the smarts to know you can’t disco in jackboots.) Plus his singing voice has grown to irritate the bejesus out of me, and this is coming from someone who makes it a point to defend M.I.A. The fact that everyone else in the band comprises one of the most musically astounding outfits in early ’80s hardcore punk aside from the aforementioned Minutemen just makes this conflict all the harder. DELETED

The Saints, “Know Your Product” (from Eternally Yours, 1978): Hornpunk! I’m not sure why this type of thing never caught on, aside from the fact that X-Ray Spex already pretty much cornered the market on it and all the horn sections wound up gravitating towards 2-Tone ska bands within a year and that it tends to make even the most forceful, bile-stained band sound like they just heard Otis Live in Europe and loved it but didn’t entirely comprehend how to replicate it. OK, maybe I am sure. But hell, the Saints pull it off. This is probably as good as it gets until you get to Rocket from the Crypt, and even with Chris Bailey’s king-shit sneer it’d sound kind of go-nowhere without that brass. Lyrics: “advertising is misleading” — a sentiment obvious and inescapable as the riff.

The Team, “Ambassadors Night” (from World Premiere, 2006): Dudes rapping all hushed through their teeth about going to clubs and macking on not-entirely-compliant women over seething John Carpenter beats: this is what you’re missing if you’re on some won’t-hyphy-die-already shit. I’m pretty sure I got hipped to this by Oh Word, so good on them. (Also good on them: repping the Congos and Mayfield’s Short Eyes. And the Sweet.)

Brian Bennett, “Solstice” (from Voyage: A Journey Into Discoid Funk, 1978): Instrumental space-weirdo lude-funk drowning in Moogs, courtesy of the drummer from the Shadows (?!). Sampled more than once, the best instance of which is in that link up there, but even on its own it has a strong appeal I can’t entirely chalk up to crazy-synths kitsch. It’s probably the rhythm section, supple and slick enough for late ’70s Isleys. FAVORITE

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