Saturday, 24 May 2003

Album Review: Tical 2000

Time hasn’t been particularly kind to Method Man’s sophomore effort. Recorded in 1998 during the pinnacle of the Millennium Bug end of the word hype, much of the album is now pretty redundant. The Intro, for example, now just sounds embarrassing. We were nowhere near to the apocalypse and Meth’s predictions seem a more than a little off-kilter.

It was Meth’s ability to mix wit with menace that made Tical special. Here, he tries in vain to find the same balance. The joker in Meth makes an appearance ten seconds into the first track as he parodies Sly Stallone’s Rocky, by yelling “Adriannnnn” – it’s pretty funny, but totally out of place. Elsewhere, the Chris Rock skit, You Play Too Much is admittedly hilarious.

Where his contemporaries Raekwon, Ghostface Killah and Gza each give their own spin on criminal life, Meth meekly treads over ground he already covered in his debut. “Brain is punctured and drained through the nasal," he drawls on Spazzola in a nod to the intro to his anthem, Method Man. There are a couple of instances he just recycles verses from earlier releases, most notably on the sterile Killin Fields.

Perhaps predictably the production is uninspired. 4th Disciple, True Master, Inspectah Deck and the Rza each fail to set the album alight. Surprisingly, Eric Sermon’s contribution Step By Step is no better. Given the talent behind the production desk, it seems odd that Method Man would produce the best track himself, Judgement Day is the focal point, and indeed the most dazzling track on the LP. The production successfully straddles the line between cinematic and being a decent head-nodding track, but it is proceeded by 50 seconds worth of nonsense and one of the verses is recycled from Method Man’s collaboration with Texas. The fact that it is the best track is a pretty damning indictment of the overall quality. The only other track worth noting is Break Ups 2 Make Ups, D’Angelo is as silver-tongued as ever and he and Method Man make a respectable pairing.

Overall, it’s just not good enough and there are several criticisms to level at Tical 2000. Frankly twenty-eight tracks is far too many; eleven of them are skits, which itself ridiculous. The very notion that Meth has included as many skits as most artists have tracks is crazy. Those Wu fans that remain blind to the Wu’s least inspired albums will no doubt lap this up. But anyone more discerning should consider the meagre praise contained in this review as pretty generous.

Saturday, 17 May 2003

Radio 4 doc on Celebration

Fan. Fucking. Tastic Radio 4 documentary about the Disney-made town of Celebration.

"How would the world look if it were run by the Disney corporation? In the alligator-infested swamps of Florida is a town built and founded by Disney. Celebration was founded in 1994, and sold to Americans as "a place of caramel apples and cotton candy, secret forts, and hopscotch on the streets". Thousands of Disneyphiles came from across the USA to resettle in the town and live the Disney dream. In winter, the town's managers blow fake snow into the streets, and in Autumn, they provide fake leaves. But there is increasing dissent in Celebration at Disney's authoritarian rule. Dylan Winter travels to Florida to hear both sides of the story."


Thursday, 15 May 2003

June Carter Cash passes away

June Carter Cash has died at age 73 due to complications following heart surgery.

The world has lost one of the great female performers of all time.

Poor Johnny, he's lost his soulmate.


Friday, 2 May 2003

Album Review: Soundbombing Volume II

While the first Soundbombing mix album was a brilliant summary of the works of the Rawkus label, it was slightly blighted by DJ Evil D’s insistence in reminding the listener of his name every few seconds. The third in the series was released last year and sadly was of pretty average quality. In between the two came (predictably) Soundbombing II, a collection of wonderful mixing, intelligent MCs and mind-blowing production.

The track that most people will want to hear is Any Man by Eminem. All the hallmarks of an Eminem track are present: he disses his mother, raps about STDs and his daughter Hallie gets a mention. While the lyrics are pretty standard, Da Beatminerz production is superb making this Mathers’ best work to date.

Elsewhere, Pharoahe Monch’s tale of a renegade cop on the rampage on Mayor is simply awesome. Monch plays the part of a rebel policeman who goes on a murderous rampage in revenge for his father’s suspension from the force, “My last minutes on earth / drop say a prayer / fuck it if I’m gonna die / at least I shot the Mayor.” It’s a wonderfully weaved tale and the atmospheric strings make it all the more cinematic. The other standouts include 1-9-9-9 by Common and Sadat X, Brooklyn Hard Rock by Thirstin Howl III and A B-Boy Document 99 by The High & Mighty. The truth is though, there is not a single bad track on this collection.

While the tracks by Eminem and Mos Def will be the most listened to by fans of more traditional hip hop, there is one track on the album that overshadows all others. Company Flow’s Patriotism is frankly one of the most insane things I have ever heard. Reminding, yet again, exactly how much of a shame it is that they split after only two LPs. It’s a messy piece of conspiracy theory rhetoric, as Big Jus and EL-P bring the US government to task on several issues, "You don’t even know the chemicals you’ve ingested / urine tested / beat innocent man til he confesses” EL-P declares during the second verse. The light-speed rhymes are severely at odds with the hypnotic, “left, right, left, right” hook and the EL-P production is typically obtuse. Needless to say, fans of Company Flow really need to hear this track.

Soundbombing II is certainly the best of the three in the series. It is a perfect showcase of the Rawkus label at the height of its power. Not only are the tracks all great, special mention must be given to the Beat Junkies for mixing the tracks so well. Soundbombing II is a near-perfect mix album and one of the most impressive works in the Rawkus canon.

Miss Elizabeth RIP

Elizabeth Ann Hulette aka Miss Elizabeth has died at the age of 42.

Hulette became famous as the valet for Macho Man Randy Savage in the 1980s but had a real-life relationship with Lex Luger later in her life. Just a month ago, Luger was arrested for assaulting Hulette in a domestic dispute.

Following Elizabeth's death, Luger has been arrested on drug possession charges.


Thursday, 1 May 2003

Album Review: The Dirty Story

Russell Jones’ story is certainly the most rock and roll of any living artist. He was always slightly crazed, but in 1999 Jones’ managed to evade the FBI for several weeks (including jumping onstage during a Wu Tang Clan concert and performing a few verses before escaping back into the audience) before getting caught outside a McDonalds because he thought that they were autograph hunters. His work has always divided opinion, even some hardcore Wu Tang fans remain unsure of his blathering ways. He is the most entertaining living solo artist as far as I’m concerned. It is always hard to pin down the best work of someone as wildly creative as ODB, but the eleven tracks here are among his best.

Shimmy Shimmy Ya remains ODB’s piece de resistance, but Brooklyn Zoo isn’t far behind. Fittingly it is these two songs which begin the collection. Both have ODB at his incoherent best. On Shimmy Shimmy Ya he drawls, “Oh baby I like it raw” over a funky piano sample and pounding bassline. Brooklyn Zoo is ODB’s most vitriolic mission statement so far as he declares himself, “the one man army.” Following these two tracks comes Dirty’s most commercially successful track so far, Got Your Money. There’s not a lot more that can be said about the track that put Kelis and The Neptunes on the map and gave ODB the fame he richly deserves.

The first three tracks are the most commercial on the album (the Fantasy remix excepted), what follows is probably a more realistic summary of Dirty’s work. On each of the eleven tracks Dirty rambles at some point, but it is Dirty Dancin where he meanders the most. The lyrics which are barely audible go something like, “mza mza, my name is the old dirty bas / my game is to kick you’re ass / dnuh dnuh dnuh dnuh.” ODBs blathering means that Method Man is relied upon to carry the traditional hip hop part of the track. The production by the Rza is a little bland, but the track remains one of Dirty’s most entertaining. Elsewhere Recognise and I Can’t Wait have Dirty at his most bizarre, especially the latter where Dirty offers a shout-out to munchkins, Eskimos, submarines and himself.

The only slightly out of place track is the remix of Mariah Carey’s Fantasy. While the original song was the usual trite that Carey pumps out, ODB does deliver a suitably bizarre couplet, “me and Mariah go back like babies and pacifiers.” The Puff Daddy production is better than one might assume, but it is ODB who brings the track hurtling out of mediocrity.

In between the tracks the listener is treated to some insight into ODB. The standout moment is when Dirty lists his favourite artists. At the beginning of Cold Blooded he proclaims that, Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson and Marvin Gaye are good, Otis Redding is like one of the best but Rick James is something out of the ordinary.

The music on offer here is amazing, however, it is hard not to be cynical about an artist releasing a greatest hits collection after only releasing two studio albums. Also, the album is a little short. A collection weighing in with eleven tracks at just over forty minutes is not enough to do ODB justice. Anyone wishing to hear ODB should use this collection as a starting point, but fans will probably already own everything on offer here.