Even awful bands do things right sometimes. We're wholly disinclined to say anything nice about the "crunk-core" cartoon outfit BrokeNCYDE, because, well, BrokeNCYDE is terrible. They're so terrible that after receiving a CD in the mail boldly entitled The Best of BrokeNCYDE, we actually rolled around on the floor laughing, showed it to everyone in our office, watched them roll on the floor laughing, giggled some more, then Tweeted about it.
But! Said CD came accompanied with a press release, as CDs mailed to newspapers often do. Most CD press releases are as mediocre as room-temp turkey on Dec. 2. This was a very un-mediocre CD press release, however. In fact it may be the single greatest CD press release we have ever received -- an honor we are extremely hesitant to bestow upon anyone, much less the patron saints of late-adolescent binge-drinking idiocy. But this press release was short, well-written, and funny. It got our attention, and prompted us to consider writing about the band. Unfortunately, there isn't much of a lesson here for you music PR folks, because this kind of thing can only be done once:
Illmatic is fine. A hardass young upstart rapper plays an old pro over dusty, eerie (read: "cinematic") beats with samples that never fully conjoin and keeps it all under 40 minutes. It's an ideal debut. What it's not is a finishing point. It's in fact so idealized that it's not absurd to suggest rappers liked it so much because it provided an easy-to-imitate template of cool. It would be much harder to imitate the Memento-biting "Rewind" or the Maltese Falcon-inspired "Who Killed It?" Forget cinematic, those would require acting lessons. Ahead of Nas' show tonight at the Fox Oakland, here are five Nas albums that are at least as good as, if not better than, his debut.
With the release last week of Join Us, their first album for grownups in four years, They Might Be Giants has managed something that few pop musicians ever pull off: still creating music of the type and caliber of what made them famous full decades after their start. The record has been heralded by their devoted cult and won its share of rave-ish mainstream assessments, and I agree that it's entirely worth your time.
But those outside the cult might be daunted by its 18 tracks or the band's reputation as a less-than-serious novelty act. Before deciding They Might Be Giants might not be your thing, it's a good idea to be sure you're clear on what exactly their thing is: restless, high-caliber pop music that's often a bit like good Elvis Costello minus the sexual anger.
So, for those who don't know already, here are nine samples of the best of the band's recent output. There's humor in these songs, but that doesn't make them jokes.
1. "Can't Keep Johnny Down" from Join Us
Kicking off with a quicksilver keyboard ringtone and then a brash full-band attack, and wrapping up with unfussy accordion chords and then that same keyboard jingle, the first track off the band's best album in a decade or so seems to solder the two approaches of their two distinct eras: the real rock-band stomp of John Henry through The Else and the more delicate squeezebox-and-electronics mode of their debut through Apollo 18.
Throughout both eras, the songwriting has often been strong, especially in cases like this, where John Linnell sings of unsettling anxieties over top-flight pop.
I know. You're sick of reading about the little shit. So am I. What I couldn't have known during my miserable first run through Goblin is that I wouldn't be sick of listening to it as July approaches. Not by a long shot, not nearly as much as I thought I'd be when I slogged and blogged my way through it in this space. I could still do without some of the overkill at the end: The instrumental "Au79" and dumber-than-D12 "Bitch Suck Dick," and at least one other, I'm sure. But the first nine tracks are a thrill ride, outrageous track times and all. Few albums have grabbed and held in the first half of 2011 for me like that sequence. For one, that 73-minute sprawl leaves a lot to dig into beyond one listen. I missed the album's first laugh, when Tyler finally emerges to spit a somewhat tired opening credo ("I'm not a fucking role model!") and his pitch-shifted therapist sighs, "I know this."