“My wish for 2001: The Voice goes easy on teenpop and bad metal coverage,” Sasha Frere-Jones pleaded in his P&J ballot. And ignore where the action is? Not a chance. Anyway, the previous Singles Again column concentrated on teenpop. So guess what?
Papa M: “Turn, Turn, Turn”
Mailed out as a promotional Christmas card (its green-and-red label sporting Santa and reindeers) a few months back, it outcaroled holiday product by Grandaddy and Weezer and especially Flaming Lips; only thing is, “Turn, Turn, Turn” isn’t a Christmas song even if its lyrics date back to Ecclesiastes and bedecked post-Vatican II folk masses. Here, the millennia-old words are excised so only music remains: guitar explorations chiming like church bells for nigh on 20 minutes, cross-stitched like gaggles of Pavements and Silver Jews jamming “We Are the World”- style. Probably the best Byrds cover since Hüsker Dü’s “Eight Miles High” in 1984, though probably closer to the Hüskers’ 14-minute “Dreams Reoccurring” from that same year, or maybe the Byrds’ own live 16-minute “Eight Miles High” on Untitled, back when they were inventing space-rock.
Spaceboy: The Force That Holds Together a Heart Torn to Pieces
Best 10-inch vinyl metal record in the universe since Bloodstar’s 1991 “Exterminator 666 Does Not Answer”/”Hyperspace.” And from insane sleeve calligraphy to micro-miniature guitar squiggles, this one like that one launches early Voivod into early Hawkwind. Outer-space tornado-thrash lets its force be with you: As the sound drifts slower and slower toward small-n nirvana, it’s hard to imagine mere human beings behind it. But they are, and “Pot Hibernation” suggests their inspiration. “I think my brain is bleeding/ Oozing pus . . . Deep sleep of the gods/Drifting into nether worlds beyond.” Yowza, dude! Put the ebb and flow and vomit on repeat all day, and you’ll have no worries.
Sculpted wank and pedal abuse as more ambient background heaviness, on the only orange translucent vinyl 10-inch I’ve ever fondled. Amsterdamsters who shared their previous Man’s Ruin EP with Queens of the Stone Age, Beaver drown out inaudibly high-up-there mouths with a very unhurried guitar trio unpronounceably named “Tos Nieuwinhuizen” and “Joszjoa da Weerdt” and “Roel Schoemakkers.” The titles might all be about standing still: “Static” (note onomatopoetic pun), “Tarmac” (music for real airports), “Repossessed” (car culture meets Satan culture), “Interstate” (ticking its odometer like “Autobahn” gone metal). Stoner rockers sure do dig the road. Especially Dutch ones: Remember “Radar Love”?
If you spin the only gray translucent vinyl 10-inch I’ve touched at 45 rpm instead of 33, you’ll hear as much “Super Fly” in “Supersoul” ‘s groove as “Supernaut” (that’s Sabbath, G). More committed to verses/choruses/ verses than Beaver, these Swedes pummel tunefully, though you’re forgiven for not caring about angstrom distinctions within such a throwback subsubgenre. “Light Years Ahead” is chunkier than “up to the fucking sun we’re gonna fly then fly to the moon” suggests; a spiraling byrd-of-prey called “Inside the Falcon” is the big blastoff.
Carnival In Coal: “Baker Street”
Oddest and best hit on metal stations in the past year, and a cover of a song that might well have won the 1978 Pazz & Jop poll if there had been singles balloting before 1979. Did these French death-metal semiparodists (whose album also thrashes Michael Sembello and ’80s Genesis and turns Pantera into synth-pop) hear about Gerry Rafferty from the part in Reservoir Dogs where that cop getshis ear chopped off? They don’t take the easy way out, reducing an old hit to slamdance shit; instead, somehow, they make it even more minor-key and mythic, tapping the Gothic loneliness of Scandinavian metallers like Tiamat and Therion. One guy sings loungey and laid-back; his partner plays some bighearted behemoth chained in the catacombs. Together they turn “Baker Street” into the suicidal lament of a Norse nomad weighed down by burdens on his mind and possessions over his shoulder, taking a Dark Ages odyssey across the frozen Black Forest. The city made him feel so cold; another year and then he’ll be happy, but he’s crying now. So he buys some land, gives up booze and one-night stands, settles down in a quiet little town, forgets about everything. When he wakes up, the sun is shining. And afternoon-rock’s all-time-greatest sax solo—now a distorted guitar, yet as optimistic as ever—carries him home.
Mindless Self Indulgence: “Bitches”/”Molly”
From the only gnu-metal children of the Korn who realize how ridiculous they are, a few remixes emphasizing said silliness. A very white guy plays fast and loose with the race card (big hook goes “throughout the projects”) in his Russell Mael falsetto; says bitches love him ’cause he can rock, he can rhyme, he can fuck, and he’s on time. (Punctuality counts!) Remixer Michael Patterson ups the opera quotient and stirs in what sounds like Malcolm McLaren’s “Buffalo Gals”; re-remixer µ-ziq builds a perpetual-motion pinball machine from shards of broken glass. The B side, “Molly,” hiccups about a “good girl” who turns out to be a “liar,” as its mad percolation achieves the world’s first fusion of drum’n’bass, heavy rock, and circus music.
Crazy Mary, Astronaut Dubs
Real-life drum’n’bass, at least in the sense that all the other instruments keep falling out, with mantras and guitar solos; hence, very early-’80s New York (see: Liquid Liquid, Konk, Bush Tetras). Five songs, seven versions total, five-person band from Brooklyn (one low voice, one high), nobody named Mary. Free-floatingly shapeless, but jovial. Unexpected reference points: “She’s a Rainbow,” “Lightnin’ Strikes,” “Baby One More Time.” Not to mention “Johnny Thunders/He left his soul, his body, and his heart/Rock and roll will never be the same,” right before everybody starts mimicking (sampling?) “Johnny” from the first Suicide album.
Techno Animal Vs. Dälek: “Megaton”/”Classical Homicide”
Punk trance? Black-hole trance? Gangsta trance? Whatever . . . two acts screwing with each other’s stuff, building beats into gangliated symphonies of scratch and fuzz. As vague as any admirable recent dance-but-how? 12-incher by, let’s see here, M Path or King Kooba or Westside Chemical, but way more abrasive. Dälek’s rough-hewn toasts, increasingly pissed-off and apparently verbose ones concerning black Jesus and resurrection and wasabi, are submerged under lotsa who-knows-what. Do they even matter?
Arlo: “Sittin’ on the Aces”/”Skyscraper”
Overheard words about luck and fate (hence, the title’s poker metaphor), random loud-and-quiet changes, adenoidal Perry Farrell faux-falsetto, but god, the A side rocks tough anyway. And since they’re named after Woody Guthrie’s kid, maybe the aces they’re holding have glossy pictures with circles and arrows and photographs on the back of each one. The mellower B side, patterned on a “Smells Like Teen Spirit” fugue just like the A, isn’t quite towering enough to scrape skies.
Stray From the Pack
Of the four Bay Area underground hip-hop units here, only Slumplordz featuring Zion 1 feel the need to act hard, and theirs is easily the record’s most affected, most reined-in track. Azeem does a jazzed and friendly voiced tribute to women who just got out of jail, one of whom he meets when she comes into Taco Bell to use the toilet, after which she fixes monster trucks then robs a Baskin-Robbins with kerosene and matches. (I guess the ice cream melted.) Moon Rocks dedicate their Globetrotter routine to DJs who play ’em and DJs who don’t, fans who make Internet orders, punks, pigeons, beatniks, bookworms, Mom and Dad, the dirt, the trees, and the air. But the pick hit is “Swervin’ ” by the Coup, which takes its staccato cadence and rhyme scheme from “Back That Azz Up,” except the riffs rock out even more and the words are both bilingual and literate, revolving around how the War on Drugs fucks up the neighborhood—not so much pro-dope as anti-selective incarceration by the federales. This should’ve been played over the credits in Traffic. “Babies need cereal/And folks need currency.” So you do what you gotta do.
Mr. C the Slide Man: “Cha Cha Slide”
A mysterious master of ceremonies promises he’s “the originator of this slide and don’t let anybody tell you different,” and his CD cover says “Don’t be fooled, this is the real cha cha.” Well, it’s not, of course—no more than Lou Bega’s was the real mambo—but if the Slide Man’s worried about us being fooled, some competing version must’ve topped five obscure Central European charts. Here, a few r&b stations nostalgic for jam-band-mode Trouble Funk have eaten up grits-and-gravy asides about “take it back now y’all!” and “right foot left stomp!” There are marks of an impending summer wedding-reception/aerobics-class linedance craze, too: a limbo break pushing us down to the floor, another part where Mr. C commands us to “Charlie Brown!” Which I guess means trying to kick a football, then winding up flat on our backs.
Village Voice, 27 March 2001