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Archive for June, 2009

Riley & Morello Sweep Streets With Their New Social Club

Posted by Scotio on June 17, 2009

2009

I’m going to start this off being honest. I haven’t heard of The Coup, or even Boots Riley for that matter, until I found out that Tom Morello(of Rage Against The Machine fame) was doing a new group. The fact that Morello, one of the greatest guitarists of our time, was going back to the electric guitar for recording was something to rejoice over. I mean, let’s face it, The Nightwatchman wasn’t something that “everyone” could get into. Then, after finding out that Boots Riley was a “conscious” and controversial rapper, I couldn’t help but be intrigued… and sensing a weird feeling of deja vu. Street Sweeper Social Club, with it’s self-titled debut album, holds more towards Rage Against The Machine than it does Morello’s other works.

“100 Little Curses” is a display of Boots Riley’s quirky tongue-in-cheek wordplay along with Morello’s amazing finger action(get your mind out of the gutter!). On the verses, Riley politely wishes various ill-mannered hopes towards materialistic, plastic surgery loving, designer label craving, television children raising, reality-tv watching, hostile corporate takeover initiating, cocaine snorting, MTV My Super Sweet 16 funding sheeple of today(and yes, he covers all of those things inside of the chorus of the song). To say that his sentiments aren’t humourous is to say that you have a stick lodged up your butt so far that tapping on the end of what is sticking out would cause it to hit against your heart and change its beating pattern. This young man is witty and gives something that the incredible Zack De La Rocha wouldn’t: Comedy with his message. Morello, handling Bass & Lead guitar work(on all songs for the LP), gives RATM fans something that they’ve been salivating for in quite a while: new material of the same vein. His Bass work is good though isn’t as accomplished as Tim Commerford’s, but he more than makes up for that with his sensational solo on the song. Going from a heavy funk sound to a riff that makes you want to check and see if he has some relation to Hendrix.

“Clap For The Killers” comes on like a villain’s theme song. The intro to it is a head-turning segment that demands attention and sparks interest for anyone with love for stringed instrument plucking. Riley rides the instrumental workings laid down by Morello & Stanton Moore effortlessly. His flow… uhh… flows like melted butter pouring over the music. Though Stanton is a good drummer, Brad Wilk is sorely missed here. The drum work sort of plays the bench for the track. You barely notice it behind Morello & Riley. Only when Morello is holding a note do you realize that there are actually drums on the song. Not necessarily a good look, but all the other workings allow forgiveness to take place. Though, to his credit, the drums are more prominent and noticeable at the beginning of the song. Anyone who only looks to lyrics at face-value would assume that Riley is taking a “Big Ups To Crooks” within his words. Where, on the first verse, he speaks up for those whom fights the system and are being labeled “wrong” for standing up for what’s right. Then, on the second verse, he speaks on the true criminals and killers whom run the system and attacks those of misfortune to keep them under control. Finally, on his third verse, he speaks to all the so-called self-proclaimed “gangstas” aka the fake-wannabes. He verbally reminds them of who they really are and that they’ll never achieve to become who they are pretending to be.

There are some moves that don’t quite go so fluidly with the newfound group. Like the track “Shock You Again”, which comes off like a missing song from Saul Williams before him and Trent Reznor became musically connected. Granted, I am a fan of Saul’s old work, it’s just that this track gets lost in that similarity. It doesn’t quite distinguish it’s own identity. And, that’s something that this new group needs to do to kill off any and all naysayers that may and will pop up against it. The preceding track, “Somewhere In The World It’s Midnight” falls prey to the same circumstance. This time, instead of Mr. Williams, it brings strong comparisons to the obvious(Rage Against The Machine, for those who aren’t keeping up). Morello’s work is just as lovely as it always is, even incorporating a more western/bluesy riff for the verse work which probably spawned from The Nightwatchman. Riley, on the other hand, sort of comes off like a less agressive de la Rocha. His southern drawl makes it so that his delivery isn’t as intense, but his vibe strikes the same chords that Zack struck with his lyrics. Again, it’s not a bad track, it just feels more like a new song that was originally tried out with the rest of RATM and then converted over to SSSC format.

They do use Riley’s southern influence in a very productive method with the track “Promenade.” In a tempo akin to how the “move-caller” for a Square Dance “sings” out what to do next, Riley belts out his politically conscious lyrics over Morello’s simple musical structure. The chorus shifts gears and becomes something closer to Disco-Punk/Dance-Punk in fashion. It’s moving and hip swaying. If the whole song was like this, they could sneak this in under the radar and attack the commercial market. Thankfully, they aren’t playing sneak attacks, here. On “Megablast” Street Sweeper Social Club takes no prisoners. It’s either move with it or get rolled over. The power of the track is undeniable. Riley fully shows to the listeners that he is a highly skilled emcee, first and foremost. Morello makes the guitar wail like Justin Hawkins(of The Darkness fame) while having the bass bring that extra rumble in your belly reminiscent of the Peter Gunn theme with way more bad-ass attached.

Sure, there are way too open comparisons against Street Sweeper Social Club and Rage Against The Machine. If you even want they both are a four word band name and have the same number of syllables, too. They are both politically fueled. They both have Tom Morello playing an integral part of the band. But, you shouldn’t discard nor praise SSSC off of those facts alone. It’s its own animal, with its own respect to be held for or against it. With that being said, even if there isn’t another RATM album to come into fruition, let us hope that another SSSC album comes down the pipeline. Music wasn’t the same when voices like these left the mainstream. Though all the players are seasoned, they are still rookies in terms of playing together as a cohesive unit. Even with that against them, they are still well enough equipped to take it all the way to the goal line on their first try.

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Twitter Me This…

Posted by Scotio on June 15, 2009

For anyone odd enough to even be interested . . . I, too, am on the infamous site known as “Twittter” . . . you’re now allowed to shake in your boots.

But, yes, I’m on there. If, for any reason, you want to follow me . . . or state something to me in a short & brief manner, you can find me here:

http://twitter.com/Cabres

Feel free to dispute, disrupt or discuss anything you want. I’m game. Artists & fans whom stumble across my reviews, you’re more than welcome to state what you feel about it there. And, any time I drop a new review, article(yes, I can do those) or random outburst(those are coming soon to a wordpress near you) I’ll be posting a link to it there.

EDIT 2.0: I have decided to reactivate my twitter account. This time, there is no plans to sit around gossiping and gabbing at artists like some silly little fan. My “tweets” will be towards artists, news, or other events that are all media based. If it serves no purpose towards making OpinionHated more successful and my goal of becoming a professional writer more realistic, then I won’t even bother with it. So, hopefully, this ship can be steered into clearer waters.

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Little Boots Gives A Hands On Approach

Posted by Scotio on June 10, 2009

695795

Ever since the Revoluntionary War, there’s been a steady battle between US & Britain. Over time, it has softened dramatically from that bloody war(take that whichever way you want) to Global Capitalizing. Outside of politics, there’s been the steady tit for tat going on in the music scene between the two “World Powers”. Though they don’t necessarily diss each other, they do fight it out like rabid animals at the top of the music charts. When one act on one side of the pond takes off, the other is ready with a bullet of it’s own. Lady Gaga is currently the “it” girl in Pop music. She’s what the US has to offer. Now, meet competitor #1 from the UK. Her name is Little Boots(née Victoria Hesketh), and she has the artillery to sink Gaga’s ship down to the deepest depths of the sea in the form of her debut album Hands.

“New In Town” is the official lead single for the album, as well as the album opener. Is this a new trend? A brilliant strategy or an odd coincidence? I’m asking about having your leading single open up the album. That seems to be the thing for a lot of new pop albums coming out this year. But, I stray. The song, produced and co-written by Greg Kurstin of The Bird And The Bee, is a happy track. The premise behind the song is “You’re new in town, I’m broke, but we’re going to rock it out anyway.” We should all wish to be able to do such a thing when visiting a new location. The music is a departure from anyone strongly familiar with Bird And Bee(think more electro-pop version of their work). This song is a perfect greeter to all those infamiliar with Ms. Boots. It shows that she’s in it for the fun ride. Nothing overly complicated is shown here. Just a pure fun and early 90’s Electronic-based Pop tune. It might not register in your mind 5 years down the road, but it will get a party started… especially if you’re in the valley. Ok, Boots, you seemed to have taken the more danceable route for this first round.

Kurstin is on this album for most of the longhaul. He helps co-write the track “Stuck On Repeat,” which is produced by Hot chip’s Joe Goddard(who also co-writes the track, along with Little Boots). This track feels like a spiritual successor to Hot Chip’s last album. The beat is infectious and Boots’s vocal work is in the right zone for this type of sound. It won’t be hard to picture a bunch of girls in a convertible blasting this song until you bang your head against something hard, or featured on all the mixtapes/playlists of dance-music DJs. It’s that kind of catchy. It’s that strong on the commercial meter. You’d be prone to discard the song as rubbish until you listen to what it is completely composed of. Goddard displays his wizardry within the realm of synth music. It’s a very driven beat, and it drives you to feel like the lyrics of the song: “I can only move to the beat.” Drats, Boots! You’re in a three-way tag team with some actually TALENTED artists. This isn’t looking fair.

The trio team up again for “Meddle”. Meddle was commercially released as a single last August(of 2008), but I’m sure a lot of people still never heard the song. Goddard, with some production assistance from Kurstin, delivers Pop’s version of a Dubstep beat. To deny the influence of Dubstep on this song would be denying the fact that R. Kelly stopped actually SINGING a long time ago. Yeah, it’s that obvious. With what sounds like a combination of handclaps, fingersnaps, and digital claps the song keeps it’s pace and an underlining tempo that propels you to keep moving even when most of the beat disappears. Think of it as a song from a Musical Movie for Teens that is actually GOOD. Go ahead, wrap your head around that one. “Symmetry” featuring Philip Oakley(of The Human League fame) speaks about being the opposite/reflection of the person you’re romantically linked with. Mr. Oakley is obviously no novice when it comes to Synth-Pop. He comes in, with that scary-yet-uber-cool British singing style. You know the kind that dominated airwaves throughout the 80’s. The strangeness of it, is that with Philip’s addition to the track, you can almost envision the god-awful 1980’s video that would have been on repeat for MTV had this song came out 20-some-odd years ago. Oh, Boots, with your tricky Nostalgia Pop trick shot.

There are a few halfsteps featured here, though. Such as the track “Ghosts.” It’s a half-step, not a misstep. It sticks too strongly to that whole cabaret style in a digital format. That would heavily alienate the easy targets that this album is supposed to be aiming at. Though, this is one of the more lyrically appealing songs on the album, you can’t give the sheeple too much material to think with. Still, the pop enjoyers outside of the herd would probably take to this with ease. “Remedy” is another misstep. The song starts off with a dark synth sound that creeps up on it’s listeners. Then, just when the more sinister lovers start to rejoice as they have found a pop song of their own within this release, the chorus comes in. It pops the building bubble with an older Christina Aguilera sound. You can’t have both sides of that pie, darling. That puts you on eye leave with your enemy that you are dancing with(Lady Gaga). “No Brakes” makes up for these missteps as she displays the full force of the sound that Gaga TRIES to emulate. Hersketh’s voice sails like a sheet in the wind while the beat runs like a kid playing the track & field game with the power pad for the old 8-bit Nintendo. What would bring a slight pause for the Yanks would be when Boots stops singing and talks normally. Reminding them that she is, in fact, British.

After this entry into the tournament of Billboard charts, it’s clear to see that this former lead singer of the Dead Disco group known as Little Boots is far more equipped than Gaga was/is. Not to mention that La Roux is set to drop later this month to put the nail in that coffin and have the Brits come out with the win of Female Pop Acts for 2009. With no retaliation geared from the US branch, it sure does seem to be moving in that direction.

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Miike Snow Lights A Frozen Flame

Posted by Scotio on June 10, 2009

miike-snow

Pop music seems to be making a serious comeback. With MGMT’s mega impact last year, it seems that these Pop Music Makers have been coming out of the woodworks like bugs after someone stomps on a rotting log(don’t act like I was the only one to do that as a child). Bringing their own coolness to the Pop genre with their Self-Titled LP is the trio known as Miike Snow. Yes, that’s a trio with a name that sounds like it belongs to a singular person. And, yes, that’s not a typo. There are 2 I’s in the first name(actually they are sort-of named after the Japanese director Takashi Miike). The trio consists of multi-instrumentalists Andrew Wyatt(of The A.M. & Fires Of Rome fame) and Christian Karlsson & Pontus Winnberg, also known as the Pop Producing duo Bloodshy & Avant. Of course hearing that Bloodshy & Avant are in the group would lead many to believe it’s filled with a bunch of Britney Spears rejected tracks. Oh, that is so not the case here.

Since “Animal” is the main single from the album, let’s start with that track, shall we? Oh, and not only is it their lead single, but also the leading/opening track for their LP. For the track, Wyatt sings like the adopted member of the band Genesis. Housing his vocal harmony somewhere between Phil Collins & Peter Gabriel(some may say a more “mature” Adam Levine sounding voice, to them I say “shut up”). To say the least, it’s eerily hypnotic. But, that’s not all that’s mesmerizing about this song. The trio constructed a back beat that plays like a Dub-influenced version of Dance-Punk(LCD Soundsystem, The Presets, Fujiya & Miyagi… to name a few artists of that genre). It’s hard not to sway your head side-to-side with this track pumping in your ears. Even if the lyrics doesn’t fully make sense(which seems to be a motif with this album) you still find yourself singing, or humming, along with the track. Suffice to say, their history of catchy pop tracks plays to their advantage here.

“In Search Of” is like a track that Nu-Ravers have been waiting all their lives for. Think of something along the lines of Hadouken!, but much better and more mature. There is no attack for people to be thrown around within the song, but there is a strong urgency to take to the dance floor and show off your glowstick movements under the strobe blacklights. This track contains no live instrumentation. Instead, it’s just pulse-setting synth work unleashed in it’s most impeccable form. With something as incredible as this finally revealed, you know that B&A will be getting hounded with questions from their Producees(it’s a word… even if it only exists in my world) asking why the hell have they been holding out on them. But, those bubblegum artists shouldn’t get too uptight. They would have never pulled that track off as sensationally as this trio does.

Oh, and since I did mention video game sounding music(Hadouken!, for those not keeping up), allow me to expand on that with the track “Cult Logic”. This track comes in like a super(pun intended) remix of the Super Mario theme song. If Nintendo is trying to stay in the area of “cool”, they would be wise to throw this track in their next Mario installment. Trust me, Big N, it will definitely pay off for you. To say that Mr. Wyatt hasn’t spent time with some folks of the Caribbean would HAVE to be a lie after listening to his vocal work on this piece. His melody, tone & pitch sounds like something you would expect Maxi Priest to express if he was still relevant today. This track is so well layered that just when you start to dissect the structure, you realize that you’re still only on the crust. They bring in and take out parts so fluidly that, though you notice it, you still perceive it as one cohesive image.

My personal standout track is “Silvia.” It could be how easily I can replace the name Silvia with the name of the one I hold dear, but I don’t think it’s that simple. For the first 1 minute and 10 seconds, you’re treated to a bare beat digital piano and dance synth accompanied by Wyatt’s voice slightly digitally altered(no, not Autotune. This is another type of digital filter applied to his voice). Then, after that time mark hits, in comes the rest of the beat. And, boy, does things shift. It goes from a slow and passionate tune to a pop love anthem, complete with cadence keeping snare hits. No, the track doesn’t stop there. More pieces are added in and built upon as the track continues down it’s 6 minute and 26 second mark(which makes it the longest track on the album). One sexy portion of the track is when the bridge comes in, and they move the music back to how it sounded at the start of the song. Only to, then, bring it in House music fashion so smoothly that it would make Benny Benassi blush with envy. They run Andrew’s voice through digital pitch changes from then to near the end of the track. Changing his voice to the point where it sounds like yet another synth to the music. “San Soleil” is one of the sexiest tracks I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s like a combination of Art Of Noise’s Moments in Love, the piano from Force M.D.’s Tender Love, Wyatt’s digitally filtered voice and an IDM synth. Yeah, it’s not very hard to see that they were inspired by old school R&B pop tunes for this one, here. Like all the other tracks, this one was executed remarkably. This is the track during and after a sensual session with a significant other. Don’t be surprised if some genius(and, I use that term loosely here) uses this track for such a moment in cinema.

It’s hard to deal with perfection. Equally as much when in opposition of and working with. But, there are moments when perfection is, well, perfect. It flows perfectly, it moves perfectly and it delivers perfectly. That’s what this album is. It’s pure Pop Music Perfection. Yeah, you heard that right. I said it, and I stand by it. It would be easy to declare this group this year’s MGMT, but that wouldn’t be fair. These three have had years toiling away at pop creations inside of the industry. They know what works and what doesn’t. With that, they used all of their knowledge and made sure that THIS works in every sense. It doesn’t have to make sense, it just has to make you dance. Just be ready for the domination of Snow during the summer of 2009. They got the cool, and they aren’t going to make you chill.

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