Key To Music Grades

A - You will never be whole without it
B - Highly recommended
C - Flawed, but still pretty good
D - It's your money, not mine
F - Why couldn't this have been burned in Fahrenheit 451?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Gnarls Barkley - The Odd Couple (2008)

Gnarls Barkley is an interesting kind of anomaly, methinks. Their hit single, "Crazy" made them the topic of household chatter overnight, and yet, they didn't become one-hit wonders like everything else does nowadays. In fact, their debut album, between singer Cee-Lo and multi-everything mofo Danger Mouse, was actually pretty solid. I would use the word inventive, but I think I really mean they had more ingenuity than the creation of something truly inventive, simply because they're a kind of wild hybrid of older and newer musical styles; that and Cee-Lo has quite a distinct voice.

So what do these guys do for a second album? They switch it up, naturally. For one, since I am an album purist -- despite this fractured age we live in -- I listen to every album as both an album and as a collection of songs with individual merits. Therefore, let me speak of flow. Great albums have it; lesser ones as well. The Odd Couple does not have it; in fact, the upstart start-stoppage is pretty jarring and only highlights that this is a collection of songs, not a cohesion of musical ideas, weird or traditional. That's my biggest complaint.

I really love "Going On," (especially how it simply slows down to a descenting chant) "Blind Mary" and "Run (I'm A Natural Disaster)." In fact, the cheery upbeat tempo and hearing -- "Run children; run for your life; run away" -- is supremely amusing. I'm the Mad Hatter for good reason, you know? Personally, I prefer to eat children before they run away. In this sense, I'm the Big Bad Wolf. I'll huff and I'll puff and "A Little Better", "Who's Gonna Save My Soul," "A Charity Case" and "Surprise" are good tunes as well. Despite no "Crazy" equivalent, expect to hear a mixture of organ, vintage crackling and soul train camaraderie going on here with Master Cee-Lo at the helm. Like the last album, I just don't have a taste for it all. B-

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Kaki King - 9:30 Club - April 12th, 2008

To those obnoxious people who came fashionably late, decided to stand right in front of me on the side balcony and obviously couldn't give a whit for Kaki King, go fuck yourself; I was inordinately happy to find a better spot right in front of you shortly afterwards so I could see Kaki's wicked fucking fingers go to work. Perhaps you are why DC is the worst fucking city in the world. Otherwise, this is very simple: Kaki was not the main feature; therefore, she was sandwiched between some forgettably loud band and the featured act Nada Surf, who apparently came out with a hit song at some point many years ago. Whatever. She was fucking brilliant. In a kind of interesting way, short of a few people who recognized and cheered her when she came out, she struck most methinks as a roadie tuning the real Kaki's guitar, or some reluctant house announcer.

Then, "Bone Chaos In The Castle." I don't think anyone expected to see, let alone hear, what this modern day guitar god was unleashing upon us. I mean, she didn't ease us into anything; she decided to explode in our faces. Eventually, her bandmates came out and joined in and so the show began. Her description of "2 O'Clock" as 'deceptively mellow' was interesting considering, just like on the album, she played an easy ballad and then her fingers jettisoned back and forth along the fretboard in nuclear combustion. Usually between songs, she said a few words, casually remarking that she hadn't had a break for forty days and that she'd experienced all the highs and lows she'd ever had in her life -- 'like fucking Biblical shit.' It was great. Especially the last song, which Kaki told us was a cover of The Bubonix, a German metal band. A German metal band! Seeing her and her band shred and scream bordered on almost stupefying insanity. All in all, a B+. Everything was great except for the fact that it lasted only an hour.

Unlike previous shows, I was too dumbstruck by what I was seeing and hearing to jot anything down, so my memory is a bit fuzzy on the setlist.

Bone Chaos In the Castle
Life Being What It Is
Pull Me Out Alive
So Much For So Little
Saving Days In A Frozen Head
2 O'Clock
Fashion Tattoo (Bubonix cover)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Mad Hatter All-Star Band

Out of ennui springs life; such was, my veritable friends, my resolve at work today, where I pondered many an egg hatchling of pink hues in my sheer and utterly perplexing boredom. Twinkies. Borges. Crying little children. Pure desideratum. I was the shadow of the waxwing slain by the false azure of the windowpane. So here's my All-Star band -- not whom I feel to be the greatest at each instrument, but who I believe would work together most splendidly to create the music I in very much particular would like to hear. Feel free to provide your own bands and suggestions. I figured the more instruments I included, the more cumbersome this would become. Less is more, more or less; moreover, why waste more for less, Baroness?

Jimi Hendrix - Lead Guitar
Robert Fripp - Rhythm Guitar, Mellotron, Soundscapes
Geddy Lee - Bass, Keyboards
Stewart Copeland - Drums, Cans, Barrels
Thom Yorke - Vocals, Piano, Macintosh Computer

And just in case you've been reading this blog and haven't figured out that I'm fucking crazy, here is what some of my All-Star band's studio chatter would sound like.

Stewart: You like that?
Geddy: Yeah, um...ok, so--
Jimi: I really dig that beat, that feel, like an earthy African beat, inside the soul of a person.
Geddy: There was something fresh...about the way it was played.
Thom: I fucking hate it.
Stewart: Why?
Thom: It was a bit nauseating.
Stewart: Nauseating? Look, do you know what happens when you make rock music to lions? They hate music, completely philistines, the lions are; and since they don't appreciate music, you've got to surround the cage with hunks of meat so they when they charge towards you they look more photogenetic. It's a thrill.
Jimi: It's more spiritual than anything. The lions. Like an electric church, you know? -- where everyone is asleep; there's so many sleeping people, these young cats, you know? They forget about the music.
Geddy: Robert? You here with us?
Robert: Good evening. (Pause). I thought this was King Crimson.
Stewart: I'm not Bill Bruford.
Jimi: Greg Lake is a groovy dude.
Robert: In a sense, having committed myself, I would substantially prefer the anechoic chamber over the reverberation chamber acoustic research lab, because for me, art is the capacity to experience one's innocence. Craft is how you get to that point; maturity in a musician is the point at which one is innocent at will, and in which the music is direct and reliable.
Thom: That's fucking awful. Like the other side of a black hole. I'm quite a precious person (slaps himself sideways in the face, jokingly).
Stewart: Well, what would you suggest?
Thom: I just beam it. I haven't a fucking clue. It's just there. Beam it.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Kaki King - Dreaming Of Revenge (2008)

Haven't heard of Kaki King yet? Even after she made an awesome guest appearance on the most recent Foo Fighters disaster or may have eluded your attention on my top 50 list of guitarists? Well, she's just made her fourth album, and it's by far her best. Her first two albums, Everybody Loves You and Legs To Make Us Longer were blow-your-fucking-face-off instrumentals featuring her ridiculous finger picking fret-tapping technique. Ok, not all was explosive; there were some very beautiful and more subdued textured pieces as well. With her third album, Until We Felt Red, Kaki had a band with her, and it didn't come off too well. I mean, she's a virtuoso, and yet had lesser musicians to work with, and she sang, quite limitedly. This is not to say her singing was awful, but that it just doesn't play to her strengths. So on her new album, Dreaming Of Revenge, it's refreshing to see she's playing much more cohesively with her band, and she doesn't sing as much. "Bone Chaos In The Castle" begins the album, and it's a doozy. Polyphonic guitar triplicate with loops -- very prog, methinks. It's delicious. "Montreal," another instrumental piece, works from a slow fret-tap to a what I would call an equivalent of a boogie jam. "Open Mouth" is a beautiful instrumental with strings, like many of her others, for that matter; "So Much For So Little" is probably my favorite song. It's guitar fucking tastiness.

As for the vocal tracks -- "Life Being What It Is," "Pull Me Out Alive," "Saving Days In A Frozen Head" and "2 O'Clock" -- like on Until We Felt Red, Kaki seems to be focusing more on keeping within her range and mouthing her lyrics than with expressing emotion, which the lyrics clearly indicate otherwise that they should possess. Fortunately, the music itself overpowers the relative weakness of the vocals -- relative, I say, because she's not awful; she simply amazes musically (and besides, I'm not a fan of forced rhyming schemes). In fact, "2 O'Clock" is an interesting song symbolically, I think, because of its divisible halves. The first part features vocals, but the lyrics seem flat to me; they simply don't resonate, though they are clearly personal -- and yet the second part, which easily can be described as an Irish fucking car bomb, fulfills the emotional lack left by the lyrics. In other words, Kaki's guitar is much more emotive than her voice. Which is, of course, the real question: where does she go next? The musical divide couldn't be more clear: to preserve the insistent bombast of her terrible, beautiful fingers, or continue to become more accessible and break through to a wider public? For now, I'll savor this.

And go see her next Saturday. B+