Volume 94, Issue 49
Friday, November 24, 2000
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Pornographer racy; Saint Etienne dreamy
After establishing itself as restlessly inventive, hip-hop has become stagnant. The torch has fallen to a few artists to revive the form. Thankfully, Atlanta–based group Outkast has succeeded with their latest album, Stankonia
Dre and Big Boi, the duo that comprises Outkast, have always been just a little left of centre and, with this record, they revel in the diverse and unexpected sounds that inspire them. Although hardcore funk has been a stepping stone for them throughout their career, with Stankonia, they take that sound to the next level. Outkast have created the album that Funkadelic would have, were they still recording.
Nearly every track is a winner, full of resourceful drum loops, heavy guitar and squiggly synthlines. "B.O.B." is particularly groundbreaking, representing the first organic meld of hip-hop and drum 'n bass. Similarly, "Spaghetti Junction" is a first-rate jam with some sweet horn blasts. The title track is the best of them all an acid funk epic, unlike anything that has been heard since the days of Sly Stone.
Dre and Big Boi are lyrically solid throughout, but like most hip-hop artists, they fall prey to two crucial mistakes that ultimately drag Stankonia down. First, the record is too long. The countless interludes that pepper the record could have been removed to allow the album greater concision. Second, more than half of the tracks feature guest appearances from other rappers. It's time for this disjointing trend to stop.
Those faults aside, Stankonia is a great album and Outkast have established themselves as forward-thinking artists who deserve attention.
Aaron St. John
The New Pornographers
Mass Romantic, the stellar debut from Vancouver-based, indie-rock supergroup The New Pornographers, is a perfect demonstration of what pop-rock music should be. The album is the brainchild of Zumpano frontman-of-sorts Carl Newman, who assembled an all-star cast of his friends for the band.
The music reeks of early 1980s new wave, with an appropriate mix of guitars, keyboards and a splattering of other instruments, filling in the sonic landscape. The vocals of Carl Newman, Kurt Dahle, Dan Bejar and the impressive Neko Case, vary from track to track, keeping things all the more interesting. They manage to breathe new life into a dated sound, without sacrificing creative integrity.
The high points are plentiful, but if one were to hear only a single track, "Letter From An Occupant" is the obvious choice. Kicking off with a nod to the Beatles' "Get Back," the song rolls with the robotic vocals of Case, screaming for attention and ending in a sweet three and a half minutes. Placed halfway through the album, the song is the zenith among many tall peaks. There are many other outstanding moments, but don't listen for them on the radio.
It's too bad the New Pornographers may be a one-time deal. Televangelist Jimmy Swaggart called music the "new pornography" in the 1980s and right now, the new porn is damn good.
Sound Of Water
Saint Etienne is an enigma. On one hand, the band writes the most mindless of dance music and on the other, they fuse pure pop with wistful tunes. They oscillate between the two extremes without seeming uncomfortable in either style.
On Sound Of Water, they have concocted a heterogeneous mixture of electronics and acoustics. There's little here to suggest a number one pop hit, as most of the 10 tracks are majestic pieces that beg to be heard as a whole.
The album title is a perfect fit, as the fluid grooves slide from one track to another. The opener, "Late Morning," has a gentle humming over light airy instrumentals, while "Heart Failed (In The Back Of A Taxi)," has a trippy feel to it, but is more straight-edged techno.
The disturbing "Boy Is Crying" is one of the few tracks that does not fit easily alongside the other more serene numbers. "Downey C.A." is another chunk of haunting keyboards injected with chilling twists, which displays the band's ability to transform from one shape to another effortlessly. "Place at Dawn" brings the musical labyrinth to an end, while maintaining its buoyancy.
With Sound of Water, Saint Etienne has managed to create an album that glistens and ripples elegantly.
Slaves on Dope
Inches From The Mainline
EMI Music Canada
While we may not be able to tell if these guys are really slaves, a listen to their new album, Inches From the Mainline makes it instantly visible that these guys are on dope.
The first track is an amazing four seconds in length, in which we hear a public speaker say "I have a brother who is a drug addict/I'm very proud of him." Although most of the lyrics on the album are quite intelligent and are backed up by some pretty amazing arrangements, there isn't much that makes these Slaves better than any of the other millions of metal bands coming out these days.
Slaves On Dope doesn't do anything outside the realm of metal to try and grab people form other markets. That's not a bad thing, though. They simply supply a good dose of your typical tuned down guitar, heavy drumming and raspy screaming. The band's skill shows through on the first song "Pushing Me" and the aggressive assault continues through the album with songs like "No More Faith" and "Bitch Slap."
Inches From the Mainline is a well made album and is definitely worth a look for all you metal heads.
Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence
Having toured with the likes of the Deftones and Soulfly suggests that Glass Jaw has what it takes to keep the metal scene kicking.
Their debut disc, Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence, puts forth a strong foundation for these new faces in metal that will help get them noticed by fans.
Glass Jaw mixes pure metal with powerful hard-core, to give them an identity all their own. Vocalist Daryl Palumbo obviously didn't hold anything back when writing the blunt, in-your-face, graphic lyrics used throughout the album. The content may be too much for some to muster, but it aptly expresses the turmoil one feels in life. The driving guitar riffs and instrumental work, give the lyrics strong backing and help the overall effect of the album.
The record covers all the bases, from radio-friendly stuff like "Her Middle Name Was Boom," to pure hard-core in "Babe," to a mixture of the two with metal elements like "Majour." There isn't a truly bad song on the CD; it is quite consistent quality-wise from start to finish.
If you are looking for a good metal/hard-core CD, with some funky melodic songs mixed in and you don't mind some fairly extreme lyrics, then add Glass Jaw to your collection.
Copyright © The Gazette 2000