13 April 2006
ONLY BUILT 4 CUBAN RIFFS
Riff Market: Pre-Tax Weekend Edition
Download:: Raekwon's "Guilliotine (Swordz)"
When I bought my laptop--PowerBook G4 667Mhz/40GB used, craigslist, cash-only, dark alley, poor keyboard action--I knew upfront that the previous owner had "left a lot of shit on there" for me. His name was Charlon, neither short for Charles nor long for Arlo, an IT dude my age who lived deep in Brooklyn with a ladyfriend. Among the lot of shit he left for me were: DVD-pirating software, an older version of Microsoft Office registered to "Pope John Paul", his Netflix account, and two not-too-meticulously hidden folders of internet pornography. One folder was called "Secret Porn"; the other, not secret, was "Dick Porn."
Aside: I've looked into the distinction. Enjoying dick porn, I'm told, is a crucial point of no return. One day a 13- or 14- or 22-year-old boy gives up on the fantasy of naked women posing alone, and decides he would rather get the whole masturbation thing over with vicariously--watch another man's penis enter a lady's etc etc etc. The third party takes the burden off the imagination, all-pleasure no-pressure, and over time eventually becomes indispensable to the affair. But it's also a comfort thing. You need to warm up to dick porn, since frankly it is a weird mediator, and the physical disparity between the mediator and the mediated is, shall we say, almost always disheartening. Either way, it's still unclear to me why Charlon didn't think 44-year-old-teacher-takes-dick-up-ass22.mpeg was worth keeping a secret.
Charlon also left a considerable stash of music. This I had asked him to do, sort of. During those awkward moments of a craigslist transaction--the small-talking about each other's lives and trying to find more tangible connections and the off-hand "well stay in touch if anything happens, let me know if you have problems" which inevitably escalates to that weird moment where one party or the other says something like "Hey, well I got your number, let's get a beer sometime"--it had come out I write about music. Proud of his 17.63GB MP3 collection, Charlon asked me to peruse, as if me complimenting him for his complete Canibus discography would seal the transaction. "Oh man, you have every Canibus song ever made! This is incredible," I said, actually incredulous. Charlon smiled. "He's yours, man. He's all yours."
Since then--July--I've slowly been getting through Charlon's collection. He had a lot of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X speeches recorded in lossless audio format, super high-quality, way more than you'd need for a spoken word track. Maybe he was dropping "I Have A Dream" in the clubs, but I doubt it. Other sundries include Onyx's "Slam", Fu-Schnickens' "What's Up Doc?" featuring Shaquille O'Neal ("'cause I'm a be a Shaq knife, and cut you with precision"), and a playlist called "BEEF"--a gigabyte of rapper diss tracks and Hot 97 appearances, what had to be the most thorough audio account of the 50 Cent/Game debacle anyone had amassed.
So he's a rap guy. But weirdly, Charlon only had one song by the Wu-Tang Clan--one! It was "Guilliotine (Swordz)" from Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, except Raekwon was "Reakwon" and Linx was "Lynx", as in Atari's short-lived Gameboy killer. I like the song plenty; still I wonder why this is The One.
Two hypotheses. One: "Guillotine" had personal resonance for Charlon. For instance, there's that Ghostface line "my career is based on guns, throwin cats in wheelchairs," and what I do remember from the night Charlon and I met, his girlfriend was some manner of nurse. Just saying, it's more than likely she's thrown a cat in a wheelchair once or twice.
The other, and I'm not ready or willing to respond to this yet: Is "Guillotine" the definitive Wu-Tang track? Shaolin symbology, ethos, bustle and flow? If not this, something else?
12 April 2006
Download: "Lodger" (YSI)
Download: "Homunculus" (MP3)
Three years ago--fuck maybe four?--these guys got ahold of me after their lead singer Matt Boch saw a Liars quote scrawled in my shell profile and thought I might have something worthwhile to say about the two or three 'Liars-esque in spots' songs his band recorded during intersession. I told him the drummer overplayed, the vocals get way ugly in the lower register, and the band was more Q and Not U than Liars and maybe that was a problem. I asked if they wore ties when they played gigs; he said yes.
I'd come to regret that email. The drummer (John Drake) would never forgive me for the knock, for one, and when I produced Hedwig and he directed the Angry Inch, he made sure to son me at every opportunity. (In fairness, I am easily son-able.) Blanks opened that mythical east coast Exploding Hearts concert I booked spring 2003, and apparently Drake had to switch his plane ticket last minute because my plans were (necessarily) shaky, so apparently there was beef over that too. Then there was the whole drummer vs. drummer beef; from June 2003 to June 2004, I played drums for Forced Premise, which at the time was probably the best band in Boston, maybe on the East Coast, and I could barely keep time.
But that's not why I regret the email. These guys had just started playing together, was the thing, but more than that, they were doing the indie rock thing at Harvard--no venues, no musical interest at large, no taste developed past the age of 14 or 15 which means yes, Wyclef Jean, Guster, and the fucking the Verve Pipe pack 'em in and people are more happy than not. I won't even get into the crypto-racism involved in "hip-hop for dancing" which is the closest most Harvard kids get to a black person who's not from Andover or Exeter, or my own story about an eight-band free concert gone wrong called "Jesterfest." But suffice it to say the place is stifling, and at the very least I respect Blanks for making through four years of this, learning how to write, making the jump from "college band" to "band made of college kids," etc. They're serious about the rock&roll game; they even have embossed BLANKS guitar straps, and on stage drummer Drake wears studio headphones.
Saw Blanks last night, anyway. They still have some songs that sound 'tuneless tune'/Chili Peppers if you drink enough Brahma, and Boch still stuffs his choruses with way too many words, but jeez I am really excited for these guys. They've been doing Bloc Party vs. Killers vs. sorta-emo for three years, but now that's major label shit, and they have the music video poses, the smile-when-you-sing, the bad-ass rhythm section all the clowns who want to cash in on this sound too just don't have. Each guy is, like, personalized too: wacky handsome guitarist, sincere frontman drunk off his own song, the cool considered bassist, the no-nonsense drummer (again, studio headphones).
They have two really good songs too. "Lodger" they opened up with if I remember: the whole lazy one instrument changes the chord before another thing that I love, lots of triplets snuck into Drake's fills, a quote of "Girl from Ipanema" in one of the bridges, one huge chorus. The lyrics come off a little i-dunno ("I'm not trying to take my own life. I've got meaningless questions to ask myself. I know there's no good in rehabilitation, I've sought meaning, still I know the code") until you realize holy shit, this is an emo song about video games, dependence on the Konami code, etc. What?! Maybe it's self-effacing, prankster or merely affect, but I don't think I've heard emo pomo like this, same time have it sound so convicted.
"Homunculus" they played later, this time quoting Nirvana and doing 'fun Fugazi' like, ahem, Q&NU wanted to do on Power but it came out too thin. This song also dabbles in video game metaphor, here more banality/shoptalk ("pause wait reset it" must be alluding to the blow the cartridge method), but read it how you want--I give it six months before everyone else does.
11 April 2006
CAMRON KILLA SEASON: BETTER THAN YOU THINK
Where Have All The Dickriders Gone?
Come the fuck on.
Look, I'm not about to defend this movie, as there are lots of loose ends. For instance, there's a computer lab scene that purportedly takes place in 1996. The astute viewer (me) however will notice that all the monitors are very expensive flatscreens, the kind that wouldn't come into play until several years later. We're talking four, five years here until we'd see them regularly. So where was Cam'Ron hoarding the flatscreens? There's a warehouse scene at the end that involves an elaborate gun fight; the body count was three that day, but who knows how many LCDs had their "warranties" "voided."
Instead of running down KS's shortcomings, I'd like make a few suggestions as to how the film could have been better:
-Early on, Cam'Ron introduces his Kentucky gunrunner Tyrell as "The Hood Internet." Not only would I like to have seen more of THI in action, but I would have appreciated at least a brief foray into "The Internet Hood," or at the very least a sneakpeek at Hell Rell's blogline subscriptions.
-One scene Cam watches two men murder his seven-year-old niece outside Papa Johns Pizza. I had heard there was some talk in pre-production about having the two murderers vaguely resemble the Little Caesars pizza-pizza guy; I don't know what happened here.
-Look, if you couldn't get the pizza pizza guy thing going, I don't know why the two murderers weren't the porno pizza dudes or two of the lesser members of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. What I'm thinking: The rest of the movie Cam is wandering the New York City sewers looking for the killers; at the end of one tunnel he finds Vanilla Ice, cold, naked, and trying to sing "go ninja go ninja go" but the pain is too much. Finis.
-It's unclear why Juelz Santana has the second bill; he has a minute of script tops and his role is never really accounted for. Let's switch him up for Yayo. What this means: Instead of the scene where Cam dumps that guy in the back of the trunk with a box of rats, there's a scene where Yayo takes off his bucket hat, politely asks the guy to get inside the hat, then yells a lot at the guy because he physically cannot fit inside the hat. Ideally there would be a lot of scenes like that.
-There's a scene where Cam is riding down to Baltimore with one of his shorties, a girl who looks suspiciously like full-time scenester Karen Plus One. This isn't a suggestion, I'm just wondering why nobody's brought this up yet.
-In the opening scene, Cam'ron urinates on a guy who tried to rip him off when they were rolling dice. While he urinates, he says "no homo" several times, as if to deflect any accusations that the pissing has any erotic value for him; Cam's friends groan but seem to understand. In a better version of Killa Season, Cam'Ron would keep saying "no homo," but with every repetition he would increasingly raise his voice slightly at the end, as if he is asking his posse, "No homo...?" Before fading to black, Cam would face the camera and ask us--America--the same.
10 April 2006
HATH NOT A JEW RIFFS?
Shalhevet: Battle of the Bands
NYU Kimmel Center Room 914
8 April 2006
The Great Depression may well be underway here in Riff Town, but nothing could stop me from fucking my way to the top of the NYU Shalhevet Club's Battle of the Bands, being asked to judge the show, drinking all their Diet Coke backstage, then throwing the whole thing because the bassist from Brooklyn College's Except Saturday kept playing the bassline from Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Aeroplane" over and over until his band members insisted he stop. Don't get me wrong, this was no Excepter show. But at one point ES's guitarist launched into a solo so hard that his glasses nearly fell off his face, and while he struggled to finish up before they dropped completely, he made one of those scrunched-up 'ok guys, who farted on my face?' faces, and everyone in the room knew the answer.
So we're clear, Shalhevet is NYU's Orthodox Jewish Community, which means every band here--ones from Brandeis, Harvard, Columbia, Brooklyn College, and NYU--had 100% of the chosen blood in them, and more than 150% of the audience had read The Chosen (some read it twice). It was sabbath, which means the party got a late start cos nobody could take the subway until the sun came down--which means I, a gentile, really expected somebody, anybody, to play some Black Sabbath, and was very disappointed when the most we got was "My Guitar Gently Weeps." Bonus: This also means the handsome guitarist from Columbia's the Shake couldn't fix himself a "snake," the Hebrew word for a sandwich with cheese on it.
But goddamn did that guitar weep--the accompanying handclaps so spirited, however many times they fell on the 1s and 3s and numbers I didn't even know you could clap on. A moshpit started next to me only after careful deliberation, and stopped on the dime when one kid dropped his skull cap. The Shake played "My Sharona" and even though the lead singer couldn't hit the highs he had the new wave stiff leg bit down cold, and his groupies had theirs too. These guys had 12 minutes each to convince me they were the second coming of rock, and while I don't know why NYU's Mad Hatters dragged the shit out of "Suffragette City," I do know why they called themselves the Mad Hatters (they were all wearing hats).
The best band there, I'm obliged to say since the drummer's dad bought me dinner and paid for my ticket, was Red Heifer. "How can we play a hit, but also be Jewish?" Heifer's lead singer asked the crowd. My question is this: How many Jews, besides Marilyn Manson and the drummer from the Beatles, have asked the same? Heifer's answer came in the form of Matisyahu's reggae-rap-rocker "King Without a Crown," which is indeed both a hit and extremely Jewish. (There's some Fear of Music to it too, but 'jew' didn't hear it from me). They didn't win, sorry to say, but they got to play an Elvis medley at the end while the judges scores were tallied, and some of the older women auditioning in the room next door for the film about wifeswapping probably felt a little ashamed of themselves.