Sunday, 22 July 2007

"warm smell of fajitas"

ukulele orchestra of great britain, proving that g.w.f. handel is to pop music what james brown is to hip hop. wait til the 3.30 mark.

more fun:

gilbert white has a blog. here he is a fortnight after the american revolution:
"July 22, 1776 – Bees swarm the swarm of a swarm, which swarmed itself at the beginning of June. A neighbour has had nine swarms from four stalls: two apiece from three of them, & three from one."

berkeley place is on a roll:
smashing pumpkins a to z
humongous covers post
decemberists rarities
springsteen covers a to z
john paul jones, ben harper, m. ward and ?uestlove play led zep at bonnaroo

captain's dead has the beach boys and the grateful dead on stage together at the last night of the fillmore east in 1971

no trivia holds forth: uffie is more than just an empty ironist, you empty ironists! but she's still not much cop.

straight bangin' is campaigning to have tony yayo reincarcerated

daily cognition on the most absurd tv premises of all time.

floodwatch has put together a 45-minute best of dj premier. boom and indeed bap. funnily enough, yours truly is on floodwatch in south oxford. if there are no posts for a while, it's because i'm underwater. possibly watching clams.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Live review – Foxes and Anna Log, The Wheatsheaf, Oxford

Taking a break from listening to underwhelming rap mixtapes while hunched over a laptop, GMS heads out into the “live arena” to find out what the kids are up to these days. What with their myspace and all.

Watch out - she'll twee you

First up is Anna Log, who probably wasn’t born when the posters on the wall of the Wheatsheaf were put up (anybody remember Straw?). She sports a spotty Lily Allen-style dress and angel wings, and delivers stage banter which is equal parts self-deprecation and in-jokery. Worrying signs, especially as her website encourages me to “think of banana milk and penny whistles”, which is something I refuse to do. But Ms. Log’s songs are, on the whole, much more confident and accomplished than the twee presentation would suggest. She’s at her best on her own, at the piano, straddling the line between torch songs and rolling vaudeville in a manner that recalls Rufus Wainwright’s first album. The lyrics tend to avoid the worst excesses of mopy teens and piano ladies, while the voice is an impressive mix of Linda Thompson’s folky melancholia, Sandy Denny’s inflections, and Carole King’s controlled melodies. The addition of a full band for half the set dulls the effect somewhat, smothering the complexities of the arrangements with relentlessly-spry Housemartins-style jangly indie-pop. But there are enough original ideas, interesting influences and indie-folk skillz to make her well worth seeking out. With that in mind, plenty of "audio" to be found here.

After that, it’s hard to say a lot more about the Foxes! than that they do a commendable job of sounding like the Breeders. This is unfair, as their noise is a very entertaining one: scuffling drums, fuzzed out guitar, driving bass grooves and off-kilter power-pop melodies. Plus they have a singing drummer, which means indie rock points. My gigging accomplice declares herself “not keen on the bassist’s behaviour”, which is worth pointing out, as he’s brandishing a headless bass and wearing Kanye West sunglasses while deliberately failing to play 'In-a-gadda-da-vida' on the keyboard. But as with Anna Log, the music is more than enough to compensate. On record, they’re more fey, but also more varied. Ch-ch-ch-eck em out, I’d say.

Foxes! - 'Art Girl' (warning: video may induce seizures)

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

"rock boats underwater, watch clams"

Urb magazine has a fun feature on the top twenty Wu-Tang videos.

A couple of hours of shape-throwing, kung-fu-sampling, winter-wear-sporting, sword-brandishing and (pace Ghostface) shark-jumping good times. Here are two that didn’t make the cut and should have:

Ghostface (feat. Raekwon) – ‘Apollo Kids’

When I saw the Wu ten years ago Ghostface mooched around the stage in a similar dressing gown, not saying much. Maybe it was a stand-in weed carrier. Raekwon and Method were incredible, though.

Anybody know where I can get a Citizen Kane-style Tony Starks ‘Work’ poster? Ghostface is on some next-level steez right there.

Wu Tang Financial

Add to My Profile | More Videos

In other news

Lots of blogs are debating the suggestion that Ghostface didn’t write Supreme Clientele. According to 50 Cent’s asinine weed-carrier and alleged child-molester Tony Yayo, a currently-incarcerated budget Ghost-clone called Superb, who turns up a few times on Clientele and Bulletproof Wallets, penned the whole thing. If so, well done Superb! And well done to Ghostface for making about twenty other cracking albums without Superb (though maybe at some point down the line Kleptomaniac will tell the press that Shawn Wigs wrote Fishscale). Also this week, Smoking Section ran a piece responding to claims that Biggie, Jay-Z, Cam’ron, Snoop and a few rappers less feted for their creativity have had help writing rhymes from time to time.

Aren’t all these furores about ghost-writing a little naïve? Like kayfabe in wrestling, rappers and listeners need to get over the whole issue. For most rappers, and particularly for Ghostface, delivery is as important as content (particularly when the content is well-nigh incomprehensible). There’s no reason for collaborative writing or even ghost-writing to be a bar to enjoyment. Nor is having written rhymes without the creative or critical input of another living soul the only route to artistic merit, or even to the expression of an individual voice. (Disclosure: I never publish a blog post without asking my mum about it first). Famous MCs don’t really hang out on the corner selling crack and shooting each other all day – they work on rhymes together in the studio. It’s childish to think a rapper who trots out well-worn clichés as unimaginatively as Yayo has greater access to artistic truth than an inventive rapper who’s polished his ideas by sitting down with someone else from time to time. Biggie undoubtedly did this with the Lox, Jay-Z with Beanie Sigel, Ice Cube with D.O.C. and Del Tha Funky Homosapien, Wu with each other and hundreds of ‘affiliates’, Wilfred Owen with Siegfried Sassoon

More fun:
Whoever the hell wrote it, damn well buy Supreme Clientele

"like the king of a certain musical genre"

looks like this came out about six months ago, which implies that my youtube game is mad weak. still, worth shouting about:

jeffrey lewis - 'will oldham williamsburg horror'

will oldham really needs to make a hastily-put-together youtube response, maybe in his pants by a modest swimming pool somewhere in florida while sporting a black eye, like what cam'ron did with 50 cent. perhaps that neil hamburger chap could help him out.

failing that, here he is with a threatening live version of 'a sucker's evening', the song referenced in jeffrey's video:

bonnie prince billy - 'a sucker's evening'
(live, from summer in the southeast)

the old chap in the video is tuli kupferburg of the fugs. if you need educating about the fugs, jeff's your man:

jeffrey lewis - 'the history of punk rock on the lower east side'

More fun:

Buy Jeffrey and Jack Lewis City and Eastern Songs
Jeff's home page
Jeff's myspace
Buy Summer in the Southeast

Sunday, 15 July 2007

grand romantic gesture

William Shatner - 'It Was A Very Good Year'

Decemberists - 'July July' (live 2005)

'97 mentality

1997 vs 2007

Exhibit K

On his new mixtape, Do The Right Thing, Kardinal Offishall has included a reworking of Cappadonna’s ‘’97 Mentality’, a hip-hop cover version of Biggie’s ‘Respect’, and a song about stuff from the 80s that includes references to Randy Savage and George ‘The Animal’ Steele. Clearly he reads Galactic Mystery Solvers. Who the hell doesn’t?

The tape also has inventive cover art, which is nice. As a whole, it’s a pretty decent mix of 90s beats and nifty rhyming (sometimes more shouting than rapping, though). But why in the hell he’s signed to Akon’s label is a mystery to me – he sounded a lot better on Marco Polo’s indie throwback beats, while ‘Graveyard Shift’ the lead single (which features Akon’s rapping debut) is truly awful. But ‘2007 Mentality’ is respectable next to the original:

Kardinal Offishall (feat. Yonge C) – ‘2007 Mentality’

Cappadonna (feat. Ghostface) – ‘’97 Mentality’

Kardinal Offishall – ‘Respect’ (Notorious BIG cover)

Download Do The Right Thing at

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Richard Hawley - 'Tonight The Streets Are Ours'

A new single from the man Hawley. Apparently there's a new album to come "in the fall". Which I reckon is a GREAT idea. In fact, I'm going to see him play a pop concert soon. Watch this space for a review!

While this doesn't feel as fully-realised as the fantastic Coles Corner, it does feature ASBO teens, pigeons, QVC, Richard Hawley's wonky teeth, folly redeemed by ingenuity, and the same TV as I've got. Indie!

Richard used to play guitar in the Longpigs, who were a sort of Happy Shopper Radiohead, though on reflection perhaps they had a few skills of their own. Spot Richard's Jonny Greenwood moves in 'She Said', which is a bit like 'Just'.

... and in 'On and On', which is a bit like 'High and Dry'.

... all of which makes me wonder: which of today's second-tier indie-rock journeymen will blossom, Hawley-like, into the debonair Orbisongwriters of the 2010s? I'm off to Ladbroke's to put £4.50 on the one with the hair out of Tokyo Police Club.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

i got tha hook up

“cars: german, rugs: persian, links: cuban”

Kenny Rogers’ gambler is my gambling theme. I saw his TV series in a charity shop the other day, but they wanted £2.99 for it. This ain’t a charity! These guys go the whole 9:

an incredible set from the reunited, original sebadoh line-up.
if you're not lo-fi enough to take over 90 minutes of the ‘doh, the sludged-out version of ‘gimme indie rock’ is essental listening.

Yaphet Kotto for President.

Steve Albini answers questions from all-comers on a poker forum.

Listening to the T.I. album was a negative, and right now I need two positives. One to cancel it out, and one … just to have a positive. If you feel the same way, head here.

The Thick Of It special that aired this week was brilliant, as usual. Note: the scriptwriters employ a swearing consultant. But hold on: an American remake by the Spinal Tap team AND the guy behind Arrested Development! Come on, American TV networks, pick this up.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

'97 mentality


exhibit j

it's 7/7/7, so it looks like rakim lied to us about the release of the seventh seal - his first solo album in eight years. boo. at least he managed to put out a record in 1997, though not a particularly good one.

i'm in two minds about rakim: of course, his run of albums with eric b was flat-out incredible - he raised the bar for MCing in terms of technique and content, and gave rap a whole new vocabulary while doing it. he was, more or less, the first MC to rap in detail about the creative process and the role of the rapper, rather than just boasting about his mic skills or his guns. by casting himself as mystical poet and cultural prophet, he aspired to timelessness – thus while the influence of chuck d’s political bluster and krs one’s ‘edutainment’ waned as the 90s went on, rakim remained relevant. dropping his name and citing him as an influence was a short-cut to artistic credibility: when nas broke out he was proclaimed the ‘new rakim’ (though he took just as much from kool g. rap). in an early manifestation of his hip-hop is dead schtick, nas used a track on street’s disciple to tell rakim’s life story.

following the end of the golden age, as listeners migrated towards more immediate sources of gratification, rakim retained his artistic authority by cultivating an air of detachment. insofar as that meant staying above beef, not putting out half-assed verses on every latest remix, not flooding the market with aimless mixtapes, not hopping onto musical bandwagons, not cashing in on nostalgia, that's commendable and remarkably restrained - by contrast to krs one on many of those points.

but none of this explains why rakim is still considered worthy of the number one (or top 5) spot. every other rapper on those sorts of list has been debated, slated, re-evaluated, and pronounced creatively dead at some point, but folks still rush to lap up rakim's tossed-off verses promoting trainers or video games like they were new salinger novels. rakim is a cultural blind-spot, an unimpeachable presence. if anybody actually reads this blog, they'd probably have a go at me for questioning him. compare rock’n’roll: sure, there’s an elevated canon there, too, but it only took twenty years before the first wave of punk tore down the poll-topping likes of sgt. pepper and dark side of the moon with deflating wit and youthful aggression. rap’s been around for three decades. is every MC fated to battle for second place, behind a rapper who’s managed two pretty dull albums in fifteen years?

i haven’t listened to 1997’s the 18th letter since, erm, 1997. it’s not as if high-profile producers were unwilling to offer their services: premier, pete rock and clark kent all got involved. 1999’s the master was less stellar, but still had work from premier, kent and the 45 king. the beats on these records were perfectly nice, as were the rhymes – but both were a little too reserved. that’s why teaming with dr. dre, in some senses an odd choice, initially made so much sense: perhaps dre, like eric b., would have the confidence to make arresting, aggressive beats as a foil to rakim’s liquid flow? but aside from a few tantalising tracks (most notably ‘addictive’ by truth hurts), nothing came of the collaboration.

i hope the seventh seal gets a release (likewise with raekwon’s cuban linx II – another project apparently blighted by association with aftermath). i also hope it proves me wrong, and establishes once and for all rakim’s uncontested right to the crown. But for now, ingmar bergman’s seventh seal still tops the poll as best seventh seal ever:

Rakim – ‘The Saga Begins’ (produced by Pete Rock)

Rakim – ‘It’s Been A Long Time’ (produced by DJ Premier)

More fun:

Buy The 18th Letter