Thursday, May 27, 2004
Stones Throw Records
Madvillainy is a whirlwind tour of producer Madlib’s beautiful, bizarre samples peppered by MF Doom’s equally bizarre, off-the-cuff freestyles. There are no hooks, hardly any choruses, and if you’re lucky, a beat you like might go on for more than two minutes.
Throughout the album, Madlib treats listeners to clips from every old movie that mentions the word “villain.” But that’s all fun and games—the real shit lies in the beats, and there’s bound to be at least 10 samples that send you into space, or you’re in the wrong galaxy. Most of it, granted, is probably just to send crate diggers into a feeding frenzy, but he gets dangerously close to making a few bangers like “Figaro” and “Meat Grinder” for example, while less traditionally, “Accordion” may be one of the most lusciously original beats ever created. Followed closely by “Great Day,” or the instrumental “Supervillain Theme.” Given your personal tastes, it could be any of them, really. Make sure you go out and support these hardcore, independent brothers, or we may never hear music this original. (BS)
The Milk-Eyed Mender
Joanna Newsom’s The Milk-Eyed Mender captures a feeling that can only be compared to a remote, almost lost, memory. But that’s not to say that we’ve heard this before.
For the sake of songwriting, Newsom’s harp work is stripped down to patterns comparable to simple finger-style guitar, but the instrument’s versatility enables her to throw in the convoluted flourishes that Leo Kotke can only dream of. She also plays electric piano and harpsichord on a couple of tracks, and with the help of vocal multi-track recording, sounds like a caterwauling chorus of orphaned brats.
What is truly amazing about this debut effort is the way it makes the listener feel small and childish again. One verse runs: “We all fall down slack-jawed to marvel at words, while across the sky sheet the impossible birds, in a steady, illiterate movement homewards.”
Whether it’s her inflection that evokes a now-grownup elementary school classmate or lines like “catenaries and dirigibles” that recall a time when we didn’t pretend to know everything, The Milk-Eyed Mender makes the world seem larger, full of construction paper colors. (MB)
Seconds of Pleasure
Rockpile is a very famous band with only one studio release, and why is that? The reason is that as a recording outfit, Rockpile was actually a sideband to Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds. The former produced Elvis Costello and the Damned and wrote “What’s So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding?” while the latter kick-started the rock and roll revival of the ‘70s by releasing “I Hear You Knocking.”
Because Lowe stockpiled his better originals for his solo discs and Edmunds mostly charted with cover songs, Rockpile’s disc is almost entirely covers and band collaborations. But some are masterpieces, including Joe Tex’s “If Sugar Was as Sweet as You” and the handful of live Everly Brothers covers at the end. Best of all is the direct, ceaseless pub-band stomp that underpins all of it, a distinctly Brit take on bar-band boogie that doesn’t swing so much as it pushes ahead relentlessly.
In the end, they couldn’t stand each other and recorded together no more, with second guitarist Billy Bremner making his bones as the famous signature player on Chrissie Hynde’s “Back On The Chain Gang.” This is their testament and it’s just plain lovely. (JA)