September 6th, 2010Indulgence
When he’s not making genuine and humble bids to become President of Haiti, however laughable that sounds if you’re not familiar with his work there, Wyclef Jean’s busy living out of a guitar case making music that varies from record breaking singles to mix tape obscurities.
Having cemented his name in the history books as the figurehead of the world’s biggest hip-hop group of all time, The Fugees, Jean has gone on to release almost as many solo and collaborative projects than his ex partners in hits making Lauryn Hill and Pras have recorded non Fugees songs.
It would be a lie to paint Jean as a faultless artist. His discography is littered by collaborations with wrestling stars and members of 1990s British boy bands. There are tracks that murder the classics of legends if not shamelessly mimic them and over-kill songs of screeching indulgence. For those, the mainstream has turned its back, uninterested in the artist unless his group’s early tracks are remixed into a club’s set. Critics barely bother paying any attention at all.
But whilst commercial success and intrigue has stalled as dramatically as Lauryn Hill’s state of mind, Jean has quietly released regular albums showing much growth in his skills as a musician and producer, and approach as a lyricist. Gone are the days of the man clearly feeling the expectation to continually elevate from one gimmicky big hit to another (think It Doesn’t Matter or Pussy Cat). Gone too are hints of confusion in the artist as to where he fits in such as the trend jumping hijacking of Thug Angels or the pleas for credibility within the hip-hop community that made him such as The PJs.
Jean has pretty much dropped rapping (in English, his second language), rarely puts out studio covers of rock gems anymore and instead has carved out a varied approach of story telling, life celebrating, society documenting efforts delivered in a conversational, at peace with itself delivery that sits somewhere between lazy rapping and introverted singing. There are songs about child support, lack of community, road safety and place. Others launch an offensive to get listeners educated on genres outside of hip-hop and pop or simply to have listeners up on their feet having fun.
Here’s my chronological newcomers list on Last.fm as to what the radio’s not been playing with a few sentimental golden oldies and of course a couple of appearances by a pre ‘Call me Ms. Hill’ L-boogie.
Tags: Articles, Music, Review
August 24th, 2010Indulgence
It’s a terrifying thought that every Britain’s Got Talent spin off around the world casts its own Ant & Dec clowns on the side of the stage making retarded facial expressions of ‘surprise’ and ‘amazement’. Not only does Simon Cowell rape the music industry’s dead corpse, he’s breading an international army of brain dead TV presenters. On the plus side, I appear to have mastered Hindi in 6 minutes and understood every Gujarat version of ‘I want this 110%’, ‘Dream come true’, ‘More than anything’ and ‘To get this far, it means the world’.Tags: Review
August 21st, 2010Indulgence
A snippet of this review features on the PaulMcCartney.com Up & Coming fan reviews section
The first time I experienced a Paul McCartney gig was at Camden’s Roundhouse as part of the Electric Proms. My good friend Mike came along and the unexplainable sense of excitement we shared over a beer beforehand converted into euphoria that took a sick day from work and a good week to calm down from. From the opening of ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ from my favourite album to the violinists during Eleanor Rigby and crowd sing a long of Let It Be, the jigsaw pieces of recollection clouded in a memory simply of delight, sat easily atop my personal chart of greatest ever gigs attended and most enjoyable nights out had.
In the run up to Mike and I’s second outing to experience McCartney, the excitement was incredibly high again. The little concern we had that a venue of London O2′s stature might be too superficial for an artist of such greatness evaporated the moment we entered the arena – perhaps party thanks to the wonderfully quaint touches of incense perfuming the air and food outlets stocking Linda McCartney vegetable burgers. The man came on, the static grids of attendees rose and it happened all over. My voice grew hoarse through huge sing-a-long moments, my eyes watered during Here Today and my party sat glancing at each other in near disbelief and amazement throughout the crowd muting Blackbird. McCartney newcomers Mark and Wesley had one incredible introduction to rock royalty.
When I logged off my computer having secured tickets to my third McCartney outing, I felt a hint of Deja vu; reflecting on the privilege it was to witness such performances, hear utter classics and dance along in the presence of my favourite of all artists. The weeks preceding the day in Hyde Park followed the usual pattern; how little should I listen to my CD collection during the countdown? Could anything top the previous two ecstatic occasions?
Before any clenched fists were raised into the air for Jet, any doubt I had that listening to CDs throughout the few weeks prior would leave the set not feeling fresh or that turning up for my third gig wouldn’t live up to previous dates vanished like all the clouds had from the perfect blue sky of that evening in June. Joined this time by friends Marilu, Hannah and company, we swayed, sang and smiled for three solid hours of incredible moments.
Whilst it’d be silly placing the slices of magic in order of enjoyment, one of the first that comes to mind is that of Hey Jude. In one moment I was laughing to myself out of sheer unknowing of how else I could express satisfaction. In another I had been raised to the shoulders of Mike and Rodrigo, upon which the audience seemed to disappear and make way for a personal one on one moment with the man on stage and me.
The next morning I thought back to the big night and felt the same huge smile that spanned my face the first two mornings after appear again. Text messages and phone calls between the gang I’d attended with helped clear the mist of Macca Mania, empty the ‘best one ever’ envelope and seal a new case file in. Call it a day now and feel lucky for what I’ve seen? Maybe. Until I set my alarm early for the next morning of ticket sales madness. After all, I’ve yet to hear Maybe I’m Amazed live.Tags: London, Mates, Music, Review
July 25th, 2010Indulgence
I’ve enjoyed Bowie’s music for years and owned the double disc DVD of his Best Of collection for about five. From radio plays during long family drives to my Nan’s house to the occasional music video on TV, he’s always been there on the outskirts of my music radar. I recall my sister getting scared of his role in Labyrinth, a documentary on Linford Christie’s running outfits to a theme tune of Fashion, getting home stoned and tripping out to The Man Who Fell to Earth and reading about Marilyn Manson’s contact lenses tribute during my brief goth phase.
But the artist really catapulted towards the core of my radar this month after a chat with a colleague about how cool the man is. That night I downloaded the CD equivalent of the DVD I’d owned for years and have been immersing myself in the two solid and varied discs every day since, whilst I get dressed for work in the week, stroll over Tower Bridge on my lunch breaks or run the treadmill in the gym.
There are moods for all occasion:
Space Oddity – 101 Hollywood blockbusters and US dramas about extraterrestrials and space later, a strength of this track is it’s ability to challenge the boundaries of imagination, even in the age where everything seems possible, at least when it’s engraved with an Apple logo. A great one to open up the box around your brain in a morning, munching a bowl of corn flakes and bolting a door shut for the day ahead is rarely as inspired.
Modern Love – A happy and bouncy tune that’s ideal for walking out of your office at the end of the day. It’s one of many examples that show how unlike say, Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called To Say I Love You or Paul McCartney’s Give My Regards To Broad Street, Bowie’s 80s output remained current to it’s time without over cheesing it.
China Girl – Another 80s effort that avoids the pitfalls of the decade’s dry drum machines and cold synthesisers thanks to Bowie’s intriguing lyrics and their softly, almost spoken execution, muting the familiar hums of traffic and curry house touts for this number can put a fun, rhythmic, anticipatory and swaggering screen over your walk out to a night of drinks and chatter.
Heroes – When your head’s split in two, you wake up brewing over an argument the night before or have just had a long lay in on a lazy Sunday morning, the goose bumps one listen and welling up eyes of the next that this song can conjure up tells you you’re listening to a pretty special thing. The simplicity of the ostinato, escalating passion and strain of the vocal and statement of the lyric are elements that bread track review acclaims such as ‘life affirming’ and ‘all time classic’.
I’ve always been a little too proud or obsessive to begin exploring an artist’s back catalogue with a greatest hits collection though the Best Of Bowie is a useful tool for an artist of such material and direction. It’s helped me to start digging deeper, from the surprisingly folk collection of his Space Oddity album to the very considered electronic efforts of Low such as Always Crashing In The Same Car
The Youtube crawl:
- Thursday’s Child music video
- Extras guest appearance
- The society for the prevention of cruelty to long haired men interview
- I’m a collector interview
My Best of his Best of: Last.fm playlist
Track Time 1 David Bowie - "Heroes" 06:58 2 David Bowie - Under Pressure 04:17 3 David Bowie - Life On Mars 03:43 4 David Bowie - Let's Dance 04:06 5 David Bowie - China Girl 04:17 6 David Bowie - Space Oddity 03:47 7 David Bowie - Fashion 04:49 8 David Bowie - Modern Love 03:57 9 David Bowie - Changes 03:50 10 David Bowie - The Man Who Sold the World 04:17 11 David Bowie - Ashes to Ashes 04:22 12 David Bowie - Starman 04:13
Tags: Articles, Music, Review
July 18th, 2010Indulgence
- The final scene of Gangs Of New York where the NYC landscape evolves.
- The rat crawling across the screen as The Departed concludes.
- The lighthouse shot that ends Shutter Island, incase you don’t guess what happened next.
July 16th, 2010Indulgence
I am trained to bite the tongue of affection’s announcing calls. Sense tells me they’d scare or spoil our smiles beneath these warm songs. Why throw hurdles of language into the foray of simmering chuckles? Surely taming expression to sustain the familiarity of looping comforts is of greater consequence than evoking words that may but fright. Yet as time slides on and our grasps tighten and conversation peals beyond what was thought to be at its most unguarded extent, shelves of sonnets crumble fiercer each time, the rule of favouring silence over what may terminally disrupt this most enjoyable of meetings that so brightly provide content across each dinner table, dance floor, car, sofa and pavement shared, all remarkable yet snagged on the fence of a word I do not climb.Tags: Film, People, Poetry, Review
June 11th, 2010Indulgence
I’ll always be interested in a new Eminem album, ever since his early stuff appealed to my suburban teenage days in High Barnet around the time that I wrote awful raps in notebooks about the people at school I didn’t like.
I’m a huge fan, can roll off most of his lyrics to this day and am quick off the mark to download his latest leaked efforts (before purchasing on release day to keep the collection complete – something few artists have the ability to make me do these days).
When The Marshall Mathers LP dropped and the red tops had a field day over his ecstasy pill (bits of old chewing gum) taking on stage, I was in the audience. When The Times ran a double page spread about his wordplay and his song’s lyrical techniques, I enthusiastically ripped out the page and showed my English Literature teacher. I got hold of and still listen to the pre-major label album Infinite. I can tell you in great detail and passion about how Eminem destroyed the careers of Benzino and Ja Rule and it’s fair to call me a bit of a Stan.
I love the way the words roll off his tongue like no other rapper (I’ve listened to quite a few – www.rapnews.co.uk), his unmatched range of styles in delivery, the sharpness of his one liners and the depths of subject matter he dives to. So enthralled by the thrill it can be to listen to him when he’s on form on album tracks and non released treats on the ‘digital underground’, I unashamedly tell people ‘I’m into Eminem’ regardless of whatever the inevitable sugar coated pop single he’s most recently released might be and how that’s influenced the Radio One listening average Joe’s perception.
The Slim Shady LP had an immensely fresh, cartoon quality. The Marshall Mathers LP is a text book example of creating and playing to a media circus. The Eminem Show showed that there’s more to the cake than an icing of jokes and filling of stunts. Then came Encore, the going through the motions, ‘I’ve got nothing to say right now’ release, an output of various well documented things going on in his life around that time.
With late last year’s Relapse CD, fans were treated to a showcase of what Eminem does best. It had refreshing, non synth soaked beats unlike what many were using (Bagpipes From Baghdad), concept songs (3 AM) and his freshest, hungriest penmanship in years (Underground). Received by his public well, sales and chart positions were good. Encore was forgotten and in twenty tracks, the hiphop world was reminded of who’s the best at it. That said, it was an album that people have referred to as having little playback value.
On Recovery and in its marketing, Eminem discredits Relapse as being good, but not all that, echoing those views that it wasn’t a body of work you can listen to time again, blaming its content. However, the issue wasn’t the content at all – it was the most imaginative, consistently entertaining and varied effort since The Eminem Show.
There were no desperate attempts at humour such as the bathroom sounds from Encore – those sounds were so far from what online communities of fans expected and wanted that upon initial internet leaks, conspiracies formed claiming them to be a record label trick to confuse and deter file sharing ahead of release date though they were no joke.
It was just that Relapse came 12 years after Eminem waked up the universe of MTV with My Name Is that the world domination of ‘The Way I Am‘ and ‘The Real Slim Shady‘ wasn’t repeated. People now know everything there is to know about the man, are accustomed to the horror raps and expect the jokes and jibes at pop stars. Whether Eminem’s going through the motions or doing his greatest work ever, people aren’t going to be as up on it as if it were a debut effort and it’s not going to provide as much impact.
So what of Recovery, besides the rather confusing title and marketing angle that’s all got a bit muddled and confused? Relapse‘s narrative is of a drugs fuelled Eminem though all the press was about how he was clean and was on the straight and narrow. Is Recovery then, a less autobiographical title and more an indication of quality, and does it provide the playback value that the twist of Stan, sickness of Kim and childishness of My Dad’s Gone Crazy provided years prior?
Well for starters, it’s very solid and more along the lines of The Eminem Show than Encore or Relapse with a focus on well rounded songs of chorus and structure, less plotted humour and more statement than story line. It’s a welcome change to hear an Eminem album not dominated by now predictable and dated Dr. Dre beats in favour of something more reflective of what’s happening in the charts (though he’ll do well not to develop Busta Rhymes syndrome and see out his career trying to hook on to whatever is hot). They sound bold and will provide a lot of club and radio coverage.
Then there’s the vocals. There’s a hunger and energy in Eminem’s voice, he’s rapping like he did on Till I Collapse, the faintly Arabic accent of Relapse is gone, there’s a ridiculous pound to the punch that transpires further with each listen and there’s a mix of straight to the point ‘I’m better than you’ rap tracks to those on romance, mind sets and relatives. References to his kids and ex wife immediately grab your attention as would a series premier of a soap opera you’ve been following for years might. For the first time ever, he doesn’t reference his Mother. Heart felt and honest references to his late friend and rap partner Proof are moving.
Not Afraid offers a similar stadium anthem mood to Lose Yourself. No Love features a strong guest spot by Lil Wayne that Eminem feeds off to drop one of his strongest vocals on the CD (similar to how appearing alongside Jay Z saw Eminem record his greatest ever verse) and Rihanna provides a well sequenced reflective vibe over piano and guitar rolls. With each listen, rhymes within rhymes within rhymes become more easily picked up on and the statement that nobody else of Eminem’s stature is doing anything remotely as close to this in terms of skill rings truer.
Several tips of the hat references to Kanye West wet the appetite for what that collaboration could one day offer and will perhaps remind and leave fans wondering as to what became of DJ Premier and Just Blaze link ups spoken vaguely of by involved parties throughout interviews in the past few years. TV and radio show performances with producer Alchemist on DJ duties also raises questions as to why few collaborations have been attempted or surfaced between those two.
So where next for Eminem? With a more stable, settled home life there will be decreasing opportunities to capture listeners imaginations with confessionals such as Cleaning Out My Closet and if there is to be another big personal period of upheaval, would listeners have any thirst left to follow it?
Shuns of engagement with battle tracks by Canibus and Pace Won would suggest competitive tracks aren’t high on Eminem’s agenda and now that Relapse and Recovery have exhausted the ‘I was poorly, now I’m well’ story line, what’s left to be said? Has the glass ceiling of what can be done within hiphop in terms of scale been met?
It’s been a long time since Bob Dylan’s 34 studio albums long career has had a u-turn in creative direction though with each release he gains critical acclaim and pleases fans as he sticks to formulas that he and they both know work best, though that route’s rather contrary to hiphop’s culture of artists aiming to rule charts and strive to maintain mass exposure.
With all things said and done, after their initial catapult to greatness, coked up dips in the middle and re-considered last efforts, Oasis’ own recovery was an apt moment to push out a singles box set and call it a day but again, that model’s not appropriate in hiphop which sooner sees careers halted by gunshot or scandal amongst younger generations of listeners. (It says a lot of Eminem’s career to look beyond hiphop for predictions of his next move).
To elder statesmen of hiphop for another ‘what next?’ possibility, there is of course Jay Z who’s remained current with efforts such as full length studio albums sound tracking movies and albums produced by a who’s who of big beat makers. Another option could be a reincarnation of yester-year’s Bad Meets Evil project with reunited friend Royce Da 5’9. The pair sound good together and the shared alias opens up a new area of concepts and characters to explore.
Regardless of what happens, I’ll be there listening and discussing as that’s the real nugget of Eminem’s act. People connect with what he puts out, for better or worse, and find with him a point of debate and analysis that no other hiphop artist musters and that after over 12 years, shows little sign of quieting down anytime soon.Tags: Articles, Music, Review
October 29th, 2009Indulgence
1) He walked, strung sentences together, laughed, joked and directed like the sane, talented and warm individual that tabloids have spent the past twenty years drawing a polar opposite picture of.
2) Dancers half his age struggled to keep up with the choreography at times and not through lack of trying, simply couldn’t match the impeccable precision and timing of the man’s moves to the music.
3) His live vocal was incredibly raw and soulful, particularly during the rehearsal of ‘I Just Can’t Stop Loving You’ which left crew speechless or equally hysterical.
4) The extent of his imagination in constantly pushing for bigger and more amazing content (which apparently caused the insomnia and eventually fatal medication used to fight it).
5) Audiences of This Is It were due to experience state of the art CGI, lighting, costume and set developed by designers and engineers the world over, purely for the show that only a man of his stature could dream of or create.
6) The snippets of new versions of videos for Smooth Criminal, They Don’t Care About Us and Earth Song outclassed much of the music video world’s efforts dating back to when the originals aired.
7) Segments of music from the under promoted but wonderful Invincible album were incorporated into sequences and held their own amongst older classics.
8) The enjoyment in his face throughout the classic Jackson Five dance routines and medley.
9) The eloquence of his genuine concern towards climate change.
10) The humble way in which he kept alliterating love and the goal of entertaining and providing audiences with escapism as being the driving force of it all (pretty stunning considering the attacks he endured).Tags: Music, Review