Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"Eggman" / Beastie Boys / Paul's Boutique

Has there ever been a bigger creative leap between a debut and follow up album than what the Beasties pulled off in 1989?

It's unbelieveable that these dudes were the same group that put out "Fight for Your Right" and "Girls" on "Licensed to Ill" (although you could hear hints of something a little bit better in "Hold it Now"

We call this foreshadowing in the English biz

One thing that always bugged me, though, was that as soon as the Beasties started to get some true cred with this CD and more mainstream popularity with "Check Your Head" ("Paul's Boutique" tanked upon release, but became well respected later. We call that the "Pinkerton" effect, for what it's worth), they wanted to distance themseves from their fratty, party boy past, dismissing it and calling it an obvious joke, which apparently no one was in on except them.

Come on, guys. No one with any sense was buying that. Just because you're all Buddhist and shit now doesn't mean you were a bratty little Brooklyn kid once. The Dali Llama won't think any worse of you. Embrace it!

Anyway, back to "Paul's Boutique" and "Eggman"...I'll admit that I didn't get where they were going at first. I remember seeing the video for "Hey Ladies" and thinking, "Now hold on..."

Not that I didn't like it, because I did (and they were on the 70's retro tip way back before everyone else was , to their credit), but it did take some getting used to. And with this CD, it's so dense with samples and great production that you always are getting something new from it.

For example, "Eggman" starts with a Curtis Mayfield sample. Now, I'm not gonna lie and say I knew who he was back when I was 17, but this is what I mean by appreciating this CD more over time. The structure of this song (like many of their songs)is a traditional verse / chorus / verse, which I suspect had a lot to do with thier success among white audiences who unconsciously find that pleasing. The chorus would be the parts with the siren sound in the background with one of the Boys talking over it. (By the way, if anyone has a clue as to the lyrics or meaning of this song, please feel free to fill us in).

One part I love is the last time they sart the verse at 1:55 : "We - all - dressed in black". Something about how they are all rapping the same part pretty emphatically is cool (check it out in the live version below). They still have that same Beasties meter, though. It's in almost every damn song (One says a line and they all hit the last word / Over and over it gets quite ab-surd).

I also like the couple of Public Enemy shout outs (and given that this CD was in the late 80s, the golden years of rap, it would make sense) the "Boyeeee" at :50, a Flava Flav trademark and a clip from PE's "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" at 1:34 ("Now they got me in a cell"). It would take more room than I've already used to unearth all the other great samples in, so I'll just finish by saying that I like thier ending - the "Jaws"attack music. Go figure. Scary Eggman!


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop) / Def Leppard / Pyromania

Exclamation points and parenthesis all in the same title? Awesome! Let's go ahead and get this on the table now, and you can debate this in the comments if you wish: Is Def Leppard Hair Metal? I say, vehemently, no.

Consider that their first record came out in 1979 and that they are from Britain, which technically puts them in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal category. Now, I know they aren't as heavy as your Priest, Maiden or Motorhead (and they went really whimpy once they started in with Mutt freaking Lange producing), but back in the day they were a pretty great group, and you can't deny "Pyromania" is a flat out classic.

The first time I remember hearing about Def Leppard was in the early MTV days. Before we had the glorious cable hookup, I had to see glimpses of MTV here and there. One day at a friend's house, I caught the "Rock of Ages" video off the same album. I recall Joe Elliot walking through a dungeon with a big ass sword (which I think was the basic plot of every heavy metal video in the early 80's) and thinking..."Intriguing".

Joe Elliot gaining hit points (2:10 in)

Not long after, in middle school, when I would spend the night with my buddies, we would watch MTV's "Friday Night Video Fights", in which you called up and voted for your favotite video beteen a champion video and challenger. Let me tell you. Leppard's "Photograph" was an all timer, the Muhammad Ali of MTV's salad days. It won untold weekly "fights" until they finally had to put it into retirement. That was only a glimpse of what was to come for the band.

It only got bigger for them. As popular as "Pyromania" was, it was stll more or less a niche album. But when "Hysteria" came out in high school, it was a full blown phenomenon. Once the chicks with the big hair saw a cute singer in ripped jeans and "Awwwwed" at the one-armed drummer in the "Pour Some Sugar on Me" video, it was all over. And don't get me wrong, I was caught up in it too. I even went with some buddies to see them (with Queensryche!) on that HUGE Hysetria tour when it came to Atlanta. In high school, I can't remember a bigger mainstream rock band than Def Leppard, or a bigger album than "Hysteria". Then they took a long, long break and put out shit like "Let's Get Rocked", and that was it for them.

Back to this song - it's a great opener to "Pyromania" with it's invitation to "rock" until one "drops" (which they repeat close to 346 times in one way or another in the song). It really starts out with a slow little picked riff until someone (Steve Clark? Phil Collen?) rips in with a killer riff. Joe Elliot has a great growl to his voice in this song that mixes well with that riff that goes on throughout. There's also the patented multitracked Def Leppard harmonies in there, an absolute signature sound. Apparently these guys were supposed to be studio perfectionists and would record track after track and a million overdubs ubtil they got that thick sound. Nice breakdown on the bridge at 2:38. I've never noticed all the times I've heard this, but right at the end there, (at about 3:48) you can hear someone say "Too loud man, too loud" and it sounds just like Otto, the stoned bus driver from the Simpsons. Heh. And finally, I can't hear the end of this song without hearing the opening chords of "Photograph" in my head right after, because that's the song that follows it on the album.

I actually found a pretty great live verion of this from 1983. Seriously, solid ass band back then.

Here's the song, if you want it:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"Poison" / Bell Biv Devoe / The Millenium Collection

Anyone see this one coming? I didn't. I must have had a late night drunken nostalgia trip one night.

For a change, I'm going to try to approximate the style of Chuck Klosterman for this review, since I'm currently reading his latest book. If you get it, have fun with it. If not, well, this will make probably no sense. At all. (And , for the record, I love reading Klosterman, but his style is so easily satirized that I can't help but give it a shot)

"You never trust a big butt and a smile"

Have truer words ever been spoken in the history of post-neo classical hip hop? If you recall, Bell Biv Devoe came from the remnants of early 80's teenybopper supergroup and NKOTB precursor New Edition (minus Johnny Gill, who was, at the time, rubbing women the right way and Bobby Brown(1), who with every little step was using his perrogative to find tender ronis. But I digress).

The thing about this song is that it is malleable enough that your perception of it informs not only your relationship with women, but also your inclination to appreciate Alice Cooper and hair metal.

You see, around the same time as this slice of R & B (2) came around, Alice Cooper was blazing a comeback with his own song called "Poison". Not to mention a few short years previous we had tthe debut album of uber hair metal band Poison, which continues to give so generously to pop culture through Brett Michaels "Rock of Love" today. How, one may ask, did the cultural Zeitgeist of late 80's early 90's pop music come to this? More than likely, it's the result of the complete dilillusionment of Reganomics and the sudden appearance of Fargo's own most desireable bacheorette, Gina Covington.(3)

ANYWAY, as most things do, it eventually comes back to KISS. The "Poison" of late 80's pop music has its direct antecedent to the "poison" that KISS was supposed to implant in the minds of us born between 1965 and 1980. In one sense, it means everything, and in another, it means nothing. You can see Ronnie Bivins as a "Rapper", or as a rapper, and either way, he'll never be as great a "rapper" as Steven Tyler was at one point.

So, indeed, never trust a big butt and a smile, gentlemen...

Just ask Kirby Puckett.

(1) owner and possible originator of the greatest black hairstyle ever, the Fade, or, as we called it in Minnesota, where there were no black people, "The Gumby"

(2) or, to be exact, "Hip Hop smoothed out on the R & B tip with a pop appeal"

(3) Gina Covington was the girlfrind of my nemesis Chris Fallows at Black Hills High School, our crosstown rival. Chris had not only the beginnings of what would be known as a "pornstache" (and this was way before ideas like "meta" and "ironic" ever reached North Dakota - if they ever have), but also a hell of a first step of the dribble and the hand of Gina, the Fargo girl who what the nost desireable in the uppermidwest in the glory years of 1983-1986.