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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Download an EP from Central Services, the Bitter Cynic's Gnarls Barkley

Posted By on Tue, Sep 14, 2010 at 11:56 AM

If you're like everyone in the world, you've been into Cee-Lo's irrepressibly catchy reprisal anthem, "Fuck You." Maybe you've even checked it out in Spanish!

Well. Think that's subversive? Try "Fuck Me."

Meet Camu Tao: Ohio player, Def Jux staple, and member of some of underground rap's most venerable crews, including The Weathermen (along with Aesop Rock) and MHz (along with Rjd2). Camu died in 2008, at 30, of lung cancer, before his solo debut saw the light of day. That album, King of Hearts, was finally released on Def Jux a few weeks ago; you can nab it here. As an appetite-whetter, though, the label is giving you the first hit free. Head here to download Forever Frozen in Television Time, an EP recorded in 2004-5 by Central Services, a.k.a. Camu and El-P, "under the influence of several illicit substances between the hours of 3am and 8am." (Fittingly, the only non-original cut is a "cover" of Huey Lewis's "I Want A New Drug," with "want" changed to "need.")

The EP is a jagged little pill, coupling Camu's debauched-romantic wail -- which owes more than a little to Cee-Lo's -- with El-P's stomping, mechanistic beats on eight songs that capture that bleak, bleak Def Jux worldview. The uncanny thing about Central Services isn't the vocal resemblance or the feeling of listening to a vocalist from beyond the crypt so much as the fact that this one-off project anticipated the phenomenon that was Gnarls Barkley by a couple years. Of course there's no breakout hit on the order of "Crazy," or anywhere close; nothing on Forever Frozen would last a week on pop radio, not even the bouncing "What Would God Do" or the neo-spiritual "Work for the Government." Indeed, "Submarine" makes it pretty clear how the duo feels about the Top 40 scene:

My captain brings all the boys to the yard
And he's like, "get against that wall"
I know he's gonna shoot you all
I could reach you, but the gate's too tall

Much of the difference between Central Services and Gnarls Barkley is that El-P and Danger Mouse have opposite attitudes toward what it means to make popular music; the latter is an unabashed hitmaker, the former an unabashed artisan of the abrasive and the alienating. But the projects' respective vocalists share a curdled sweetness that shows two sides of the same coin. Neither "Fuck You" or "Fuck Me" is sexy, exactly, but you can probably choose which one you'd choose to listen to with a friend, let alone a romantic interest. For those darker moments where you need a little more vitriol with your sultry, though -- and it happens to the best of us -- Central Services is a pretty potent solution.

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Daniel Levin Becker


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