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Justin Vernon’s debut as Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago, attained mythic status both for its content and the circumstances of its creation: a batch of heartrending koans poured out in the solitude of a wooded Wisconsin winter. The singer-songwriter initially came off like Kozelek-come-lately, with a bunch of sadsack songs backed by gently strummed guitars, but he’s proven himself to be a remarkably mercurial artist. And on i, i, he draws on rock, folk, electronica, hip-hop, and gospel, enlisting a broad range of collaborators to help build on the emotional directness of his early work without repeating the same musical gestures.Perhaps the best analogue for i, i is the Byrds’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo, which Gram Parsons envisioned as an album-length treatise on the history of American popular music. Though the two albums don’t sound alike, i, i’s big-tent group of collaborators allows Vernon to grant himself a similar kind of scope. Vernon has a knack for blending disparate elements with impressive cohesion.
On “U (Man Like),” Bruce Hornsby’s piano is immediately recognizable, but as Hornsby, Moses Sumney, the Brooklyn Youth Choir, and Jenn Wasner all sing alongside Vernon, their myriad styles effortlessly blend under Bon Iver’s singular aesthetic.Vernon has described i, i as the end of a season cycle. If his 2007 debut represents dead winter, 2011’s the thaw of spring, and 2016’s a joyous reverie of summer, then i, i finds Vernon creeping into an autumnal melancholy and turning his gaze back toward winter. This time, Vernon isn’t contemplating the bitter disappointments of a failed romance, but the end of all humanity itself. The imagery is sharp and often ghastly: a gas mask hanging on an arm, rising seas and temperatures, and allusions to Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera. Throughout, Vernon presents himself as an observer surveying a world on the brink, close to becoming just ruined earth and poisoned sea. These songs aren’t straightforward political diatribes though. Rather, they’re small puzzles that exemplify Vernon’s peculiar use of language.
The tracklist looks like an assortment of Scrabble tiles: “Yi,” “iMi,” “U (Man Like).” The songs themselves are filled with obscure slang and outright neologisms. Once you start to unravel the threads, however, the lyrics begin to unfold more clearly. “Jelmore” takes its title from the way Vernon sings the first line of the song: “an(gel mor)ning.” The song’s Metroid-esque synth parts introduce a stark commentary on income inequality and planetary ruin. On the hook, Vernon sings, “We’ll all be gone by the fall/We’ll all be gone by the falling light,” which doesn’t evince much hope. When he declares, “I won’t lead no Calvary,” the clever wordplay almost balances the sense of defeatism.The album’s penultimate track, the grim, thinly veiled “Sh’Diah”—short for “shittiest day in American history”—features the loneliest sax solo since “Baker Street,” a plaintive strain that perfectly captures the feeling of wandering the streets of a familiar place that’s suddenly stopped feeling like home. It’s followed by “RABi,” which examines the psychological toll of trying not to be miserable in chaotic times. The song is built around a meandering guitar and Vernon’s multi-tracked vocals, the spare arrangement putting the focus on his words, “I could rob I,” which, pronoun case error aside, is an economical unpacking of self-deception.
As the track ends, he sings, “Well, it’s all fine and we’re all fine anyway,” at full voice before whispering, “But if you wait, it won’t be undone.” That dichotomy lies at the heart of the album: Time is running out, but what can one person do?Vernon began his career by staring down the dark, and i, i is an album made for a time when that darkness has grown larger than he ever imagined. Sometimes he’s too indulgent: When his delivery leans into rap, he sounds like somebody doing an impression of Frank Ocean at karaoke night. His falsetto occasionally outstays its welcome, and decoding all of his Lewis Carroll-esque private language gestures can be tiring business. But the album seems to suggest that Bon Iver is transitioning from a band in the traditional sense of the word into a looser collective. Despite the album’s intense pessimism and anxiety, Bon Iver’s organization speaks to the power of forging a community to battle back against darkness.
By the height of their popularity in the mid-aughts, culminating with 2005’s The Woods, Sleater-Kinney had morphed from a scrappy punk band into a rock behemoth capable of spinning out sprawling, almost proggy opuses. Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker built complex, blistering guitar parts that intertwined, bounced around, and frequently exploded into full-on Guitar Hero-style pyrotechnics. And all the while, drummer Janet Weiss laid down beats that were equal parts chest-crushingly powerful and playfully inventive.The pleasure of listening to Sleater-Kinney has always come from hearing these three stellar musicians, each with their own distinct styles, mesh into a cohesive whole. There’s never a wasted beat, chord, or lyric in a Sleater-Kinney song. The Center Won’t Hold, however, represents a radical departure for the seminal rock band. Under the influence of producer Annie Clark (a.k.a.
Vincent), Sleater-Kinney’s ninth studio album incorporates both poppier elements and dark, new-wave-indebted synths into their signature sound, a “new direction” that prompted Weiss to that she’ll be exiting the group.The result of this broadening of their sound varies throughout. The title track is the biggest departure on the album—and also its weakest. For the first two-thirds of the song, Brownstein yelps menacingly over a beat that sounds like it’s played on found items in a junkyard. “I need something pretty/To help me ease my pain/And I need something ugly/To put me in my place,” she growls. The track doesn’t take any kind of shape until it’s almost over, when Weiss’s drums come thrashing in. Tucker howls the song’s title repeatedly, but coming from a band that’s always been unabashedly progressive, the sentiment lacks teeth. Other tracks are more musically sophisticated, even if they lack the power of the band’s best work.
“Restless” is a swooning, midtempo rumination on middle age and relationships in which Brownstein wrestles with the difficulty of asking someone to accept the very things that you don’t like about yourself. “Can I Go On” is a straight-up pop song, or at least as close to one as Sleater-Kinney is likely to whip up. It’s warm and funny, with a big earworm of a chorus, but the lyrical rhymes range from basic (“tired”/“wired”) to groan-inducing (“happy”/“napping”). Elsewhere, Brownstein implores the listener to “call the doctor, dig me out of this mess” over the skittering electronic beat and staccato synths of “Love.”The album’s highlights are a pair of Tucker-led songs that achieve the best blend of the band’s newfound synth influences and their more punk bona fides.
“Reach Out” is built around a synth figure in the verses before building to a guitar-shredding climax, with a shipwreck serving as a metaphor for bodily autonomy. The lyrics are more sophisticated than those of the album’s title track, displaying the type of political acumen that Sleater-Kinney has always been known for.
“Never have I felt so goddamn lost,” Tucker belts on “The Future Is Here.” She and Brownstein could just as easily be talking about their band as the larger world when harmonize about how “the future’s here, and we can’t go back.”The Center Won’t Hold clocks in at just over a 30 minutes and lacks a certain spark—a song with the barn-burning intensity of “Entertain” or the heartrending emotion of “One More Hour.” In many places, these songs feel derivative in a way that the band’s music never has before. The guitar tone throughout “Restless” is more like Real Estate than Brownstein and Tucker’s signature sound, while “Bad Dance” is mostly notable for how much the title nods to a much-maligned Prince song. Which makes the moments when the band locks in and delivers the adrenaline-pumping thrills that have been their trademark feel all the more effective.
The Hold Steady was hailed by Rolling Stone as “America’s greatest bar band” over a decade ago, but only in the last few years have its members begun to treat the outfit like an actual bar band—an outlet for a few booze-fueled weekend hangouts a year between old friends—rather than the prolific touring and recording workhorse it used to be. They haven’t mounted a full-length tour since 2014, and since 2012, frontman Craig Finn has released four solo albums to the Hold Steady’s one. The arrival of the band’s seventh album, Thrashing Thru the Passion, is thus both long overdue and a bit of head-scratcher. As it collects five new songs alongside five of the nine singles the band has intermittently released since 2017, the album has more of the feel of a well-curated B-sides collection.While it may lack the exhilarating anthems of previous Hold Steady efforts, Thrashing Thru the Passion is still a highly consistent and satisfying rock album. Finn’s garrulous wordplay, honed through the complex character sketches of his recent solo work, is as sharp as ever, while the return of keyboardist Franz Nicolay for the first time since 2008’s throws into relief how much his contributions have been missed in the interim. Though Nicolay shies away from the arch E Street Band-style breaks he favored during his first stint with the band, from 2005 to 2010, his piano and organ on the woozy ballad “Blackout Sam” and the soulful, swaying-in-the-pews outro to “T-Shirt Tux” access intimate musical textures that haven’t been heard from the Hold Steady in years.Despite the band’s growing ranks, Thrashing Thru the Passion is their least grandiose album since their 2004 debut. During the peak of their popularity in the mid-2000s, the Hold Steady was nothing if not ostentatious, with heavily guitar-forward mixes, Nicolay’s showy piano and Vaudevillian fashion sense, and Finn’s manic stage presence.
Here they no longer sound like they’re playing to the arena rafters, in terms of both sonics and songwriting. This allows room for the energetic yet melodic warmth of “Epaulets” and “Star 18,” two concise tracks that might have been left off of previous albums in favor of more bombastic offerings. Still, it’s hard not to miss the massive guitar riffs of the Hold Steady’s heyday. One might have expected the 2010 addition of guitarist Steve Selvidge to bolster the band’s already huge guitar focus and result in more of the Thin Lizzy-style dueling leads that founding guitarist Tad Kubler had been overdubbing in the studio. Instead, virtually the opposite has occurred.
Kubler and Selvidge are too similar stylistically to create any real back and forth, but it’s not like they attempt much high-octane riffage anyway, instead employing mostly jangly arpeggios and chordal pounding (the basic, grinding power chords on “Entitlement Crew” might be the laziest guitar part in the Hold Steady’s catalog). The only proper guitar solo on Thrashing Thru the Passion, on “The Stove & the Toaster,” is thin and trebly, pushed back in the mix behind Finn’s vocals and the brass section that appears throughout the album.
Only on “T-Shirt Tux” do Kubler and Selvidge wrap their fingers around the kind of big, thick riff that might have wound up on a Hold Steady album from the 2000s.Even if the band’s guitar work isn’t what it used to be, Finn’s storytelling prowess certainly is, and along with his usual barrage of smartest-guy-at-the-dive-bar one-liners, an appropriate shift in his perspective as a lyricist is evident. If any of these songs were written with Holly, Charlemagne, the Cityscape Skins, or any his other old characters in mind, it’s clear that the glory days are far behind them. One gets the feeling that the subjects of these songs are closer to Finn’s age—47—than the kids he used to sing about. They can all get together again for a weekend of boozing and reminiscing (“Entitlement Crew”), but eventually living in the past can just get sad (on “Blackout Sam,” Finn warns of “Local legends with the far away eyes”). The drugs and parties don’t seem so romantic anymore; now everything’s just seedy and tense, like in the deals-gone-wrong tales “You Did Good Kid” and “The Stove & the Toaster.”In short, the album’s lyrics feature exactly the kind of logical thematic progression one could have only hoped for from Finn 15 years after the Hold Steady debuted and he started turning stories about pimps and drugged-out bartenders into religious allegory.
Like Charlemagne, Finn is still caught up in some complicated things—and after a period of uncertainty, it’s a joy that the rest of the band remains willing to go along for the ride with him. Despite the challenges of finding something original to say about romance, How Do You Love? Harnesses the Regrettes’s infectious enthusiasm for their material to make the familiar sound new again.
Though it’s not driven by a cohesive narrative per se, the album is conceptually orientated around the birth, growth, and collapse of a relationship, charting a romance as it moves from the first stirrings of love to its painful dissolution.The album opens with a minute-long spoken-word piece in which singer/guitarist Lydia Night asks the titular question, which is less rhetorical than a direct challenge: How do you love? And in an attempt to answer that question, the band launches into “California Friends,” a coiled snake of a song that starts with Night inviting us to “come a little closer.” Night’s bandmates serve as her internal monologue, shouting “No way!,” “Just stay!,” and “Okay!” as she weighs the pros and cons of her potential partner. In a moment of self-referentiality and a wink to the time-honored pastime of making a potential partner a mixtape, Night sings about “a band from California” before she offers to “make you a playlist of their songs.”Elsewhere, the lyrics of lead single “I Dare You” detail an illicit young romance: “My mom tries to catch me/But I know all the back streets” is both a clever slant rhyme and a brilliant, specific image that immediately sets the scene.
The song paints a picture of a relationship marked by the tension between being supportive and egging each other on: “You’re gonna fall, but I’ll catch youC’mon and jump/Well, I dare you!” It’s a sublime three minutes, perfectly capturing the heady rush of young love, as the band sing-shouts the last line back and hits the chorus while guitarist Genessa Gariano picks out an angular lead part. The back half of How Do You Love? Traces the part of a relationship that follows the initial headrush, when you realize that maybe the person you fell for isn’t “the one.” “Go Love You” is a clever exploration of the connection between sex and love, with Night’s acid delivery making it clear that “love” is standing in for a different four-letter word. “Pumpkin” draws on pop-cultural touchstones including Romeo and Juliet and The Notebook for its metaphorical unpacking of the moment when you realize a relationship is doomed. The hook has an almost doo-wop feel as Night sighs, “Pumpkin, pumpkin, you’re gonna kill me.”By the closing title track, a rave-up with a shout-along chorus, Night has been through the darkness and come out the other side. When she asks, “How do you love?,” her voice hitting a melismatic series of high notes on the word “love,” the album’s emotional arc comes full circle.
What began as a direct question, asked of the listener, is now almost—but not quite—out of the singer’s reach. The message seems to be that love is difficult, but not impossible, and the rewards are sublime. Throughout, these songs depict human connection in all its messy glory, making the case that the glory is worth the mess.Label: Warner Release Date: August 9, 2019 Buy.
Ty Segall’s First Taste is a logical extension of his already-impressive body of work, though the album represents an interesting sonic step forward for the singer-songwriter, as it doesn’t feature any guitar. Algorithmic trading and dma pdf. Instead, the album derives its power from a massive synthesizer sound and rhythm section. Segall plays all the drums that appear on the left stereo channel of the mix, while longtime collaborator Charles Moothart plays the right-channel percussion. The instrumentation also features such seldom-heard fare as bouzouki, electric omnichord, and koto.
The result is an album that finds Segall expanding his sound while holding onto the blissed-out maximalist streak that has defined his work to date.As Segall has matured from a West Coast garage rocker into one of indie rock’s most reliably protean lifers, it’s encouraging to hear that he’s still finding new territory to mine. His voice, impassioned and vividly expressive, suggests an instrument itself throughout First Taste, a key element of its overall musical texture, with the music and lyrics achieving a powerful synergy.
The lyrical conceits, then, don’t come immediately to the forefront, but as you spend more time with these songs, Segall’s ideas begin to unfold themselves. The album’s first single, “Ice Plant,” gently evokes a powerful sense of belonging and home. Segall sings like he’s conjuring a memory from the ether as his voice intertwines with that of guest Shannon Lay: “To the oranges that used to be my driveway/And the ice plants that live on the hills.”That’s not to say First Taste is entirely bathed in the glow of nostalgia. Opener “Taste” finds Segall shrieking, “Our salivating makes it all taste worse,” a grim depiction of the relationship between desire and fulfillment. “I Worship the Dog” is about a rabbit who does exactly that, feeling a kinship with its destroyer, while on “Self Esteem,” Segall explicitly tarnishes the warmth he conjured on “Ice Plant”: “My memories age/My memories change.” Wherever there’s warmth on First Taste, darkness lurks just around the corner. Though Segall’s vocals are a key part of the album’s sonic architecture, the instrumental “When I Met My Parents (Part 1)”—which pairs a skittering Gang of Four-style bassline with a head-spinning polyrhythmic meter—shows off his brio and inventiveness as a multi-instrumentalist.
“Lone Cowboys,” which closes First Taste, throws everything at the wall—a smorgasbord of wacky instrumentation that coalesces into a widescreen pop sound reminiscent of the Elephant 6 bands—as Segall shouts, “We can live on our own/We can breathe on our own!” The overall effect, like the album as a whole, invites the listener to turn what they’ve heard over and over again in their mind.Label: Drag City Release Date: August 2, 2019 Buy. Since Omar Banos first broke out in 2016, the Chicano musician’s foremost appeal has always been his ordinariness. Fresh-faced and bespectacled, the 21-year-old—who performs under the moniker Cuco—cuts an unassuming, almost nerdy figure, and his music, driven by his trademark self-deprecation and endless encounters with heartbreak, is ever so relatable. Although his early mixtapes drifted into garden-variety indie-pop territory, Cuco harnesses his potential on Para Mi, an unguarded self-portrait that, from its unabashed confessionalism to its Spanglish lyrics, is inextricably tied to his identity.The album exhibits Cuco’s fondness for melding the contemporary with the vintage. Like that of bedroom-pop cohorts Joji and Clairo, his music bears the influence of vaporwave. Thick walls of synth fill the album, and the cover art is awash in the garish colors that characterize the microgenre. Likewise, it’s difficult to imagine Cuco’s music without the sway of 1960s pop: His lyrics are bathed in the love-struck stylings of acts like the Beach Boys and Tijuana’s Los Moonlights, and the result is a lovesick concoction that’s both forlorn and tripped-out.
With lyrics like “I wish you would say/‘Baby, I love you ‘til I die” on “Hydrocodone,” he risks drowning in melodrama, but his earnestness ultimately manages to strike a resounding chord. Sure, he equates heartbreak to the end of the world, but in spite of their hyperbole, Cuco’s guileless musings serve as a reminder of what young, unjaded love can feel like.Throughout Para Mi, Cuco dives headfirst into psychedelia, using it as a prompt to try on more experimental sounds, as well as a lens through which to observe his personal feelings. The dazzling “Perihelion (Interlude)” takes a page out of Neon Indian’s Vega Intl. Night School, and the blissful “Love Tripper” owes a great deal to chillwave. “I’ve been tripping off the tabs in my room/I don’t know why, baby, but I’m feeling blue,” he half-raps over zany music box-like synths on “Keeping Tabs.” On “Feelings,” Cuco embraces feeling lost: “I gotta find my way back home,” he croons over a silky blanket of horn, synth, and funk bass.
Whereas the album’s love songs hit on the same thematic beats over and over, these more introspective tracks buzz with intrigue. It’s a pity, then, that there aren’t that many of them. Self-deprecation is undoubtedly Cuco’s most distinctive artistic trait.
(His Twitter handle is @Icryduringsex.) Songs like “Hydrocodone,” with such lyrics as “There’s always someone better/I hope you find that guy/To make you happy,” evoke a naked sincerity. Instead of coming off as pouty or thin-skinned, however, Cuco’s confessions succeed for the same reason that thrives.
Airing out the skeletons in one’s closet serves a purpose: There’s something palliative about sharing pain publically and feeling like you’re not the only one, be it through a tweet, a “same” comment, or, well, a crowd chanting “I’m sitting in my room/I’m all alone now missing you” at a Cuco concert.Though the better part of Para Mi was ostensibly written with romantic interests in mind, the songs, so anchored to fixed experiences, have come to represent universal lessons learned. They’re still rough around the edges—many lack dynamism, fading in and out of monochrome synth passages—but the impression that Cuco put all of himself into the music remains.Label: Interscope Release Date: July 26, 2019 Buy. Broadly speaking, Ed Sheeran makes two types of songs. The first are his bread and butter: acoustic ballads expressive of some tender emotion, a la “The A Team” or “Photograph.” The second are attempts at marrying the lyrical swagger of hip-hop to a heavily produced pop sound, with his voice taking on a rap cadence. This second wave of songs took off with 2014’s “Don’t,” a diss track generally assumed to be targeted at Ellie Goulding, and peaked with “Shape of You,” which somehow manages to make sex sound stupid.
Ultimately, Sheeran’s delivery on this type of track is too earnest and his demeanor is too goofy for the posture to be convincing. When he tries to play a badass, he always ends up sounding like a freshman saying, “Oh, she goes to another school.”Unfortunately, the English singer-songwriter’s fourth album, No.6 Collaborations Project, which is composed of 15 tracks which all feature at least one guest artist, has way too many of the second kind of song. A few of these collaborations succeed thanks to their limited ambitions. “Best Part of Me,” a duet with West Memphis singer YEBBA, feels like a legitimate show of artistic expression on Sheeran’s part, rather than a bald-faced attempt at redefining his brand. Still, a few of the new songs broaden his musical palette successfully. Sheeran does a passable impression of Justin Timberlake on “Cross Me,” which is less tedious than the ham-fisted rapping he does elsewhere on the album. The song further benefits from a clever, evocative Chance the Rapper guest verse that the rapper delivers with particular brio: “Know she gonna slide anytime you bitches talk shit/Keep a lil’ blade in her fuckin’ lip gloss kit, ayy.”Too often here, Sheeran feels like a supporting player, especially when he strays from his wheelhouse.
For instance, if the singer wants to lean into rapping more, he’s not likely to benefit from doing so on the same track as Chance. And when Sheeran trots out his bad-boy routine, his music feels ersatz. It’s playacting of the worst kind. Lead single “I Don’t Care,” which boasts a peppy “ooh-ooh-ooh” hook, pairs Sheeran with Justin Bieber for a little woe-is-pop-stars commiserating before a bland chorus on the power of love. The preponderance of songs where he attempts to sound cool are a rainbow of embarrassing silliness. “Antisocial” has Sheeran try on misanthropy, sing-rapping over a chilly trap beat about how he doesn’t mind being a loner. This kind of works until the song’s second line, “When I touch down, keep it on the low-low,” which is delivered so straight-facedly that it sounds completely ridiculous.
On “Remember the Name,” Sheeran brags about the money he’s made while asserting that people will one day give him the respect he’s due. With their seventh album, Order in Decline, Sum 41 has wisely ditched the snotty, smart-aleck pop-punk that launched their career in the late 1990s and reset their equalizer to the full-throated, gravel-meets-bone howl of hardcore rock. Invigorated by the metal cred they gained on 2016’s 13 Voices, and emboldened by the permanent addition of Dave Baksh on guitar, Sum 41 leans into their new hard edge with an album that absorbs all the bravado of guzzling a case of Monster before leaping on stage.From start to finish, Order in Decline exudes all the studded-jacket braggadocio of a band in total control. With frontman Deryck Whibley himself taking the helm of production, engineering, and mixing, every one of the album’s 10 tracks explode the full-bore rev of an engine. Gone is their stubborn dependence on fuzzy distortion and speedy tempos from the pop-punk playbook. In their place, the band has tightened the screws to extract a darker, burlier sound worthy of Bullet for My Valentine or Rise Against. Such metalcore references are deeply embedded into the structure and pacing of “The People Vs” and the roaring breakdowns of the album’s first single, “Out for Blood.”For all of its hat-tipping, however, the album’s crisp execution belongs not to Sum 41’s myriad musical influences, but to incredibly tight arrangements and well-designed movements that showcase the individual contributions of every band member.
The meticulous attention to details and fine-tuned aggression brings a hard-won confidence and swagger to each track. For all its newfound muscularity, the band doesn’t bother with any cocky posturing.
As a primer for everything to come, the album’s opening track “Turning Away” gets right to the point, presenting a band that’s mastered the art of bottling its restraint and knowing when to smash it against the wall. Following a swell of reverb, Frank Zummo’s punishing drum work and Jason McCaslin’s pulsing bass set a foot-stomping rhythm for an ominously calm Whibley to slide into. Once Tom Thacker’s driving guitar breaks in, the song’s battery of teasing crescendos and high-octane build-ups finds pent-up relief in Baksh’s blistering guitar solo.To keep up with the musical onslaught, Whibley’s vocals bite down harder and reach further than ever. “A Death in the Family” reels from his guttural screams, only to see him pivot into the soaring vulnerability of “Never There,” the album’s wistful, orchestra-backed letter to an estranged father. Whibley has stated that Order in Decline is the most personal of Sum 41’s albums, and “Catching Fire” poignantly expresses his attempt to deal with his shortcomings. But however personal this album may be for Whibley, it’s also Sum 41’s most unabashedly political. The band’s frustrations with the Trump administration, namely the sociocultural impact of its offenses, undergird almost every song here.
In particular, “The New Sensation” and “A Death in the Family” are fist-pumping calls to arms, and “45 (A Matter of Time)” bristles with fury at the president whose name Whibley can’t even bring himself to say.Clocking in at just over 35 minutes (not including two bonus acoustic tracks), Order in Decline mercifully sheds the filler that bogged down the band’s previous releases. Ten amped-up tracks provide just the right amount of time to savor but not tire of its focused intensity. And even if “The New Sensation” gallops along like a B-side from Muse’s Black Holes and Revelations, and “Catching Fire” comes off a bit too much like Green Day singing Yellowcard, the album’s pitch-perfect production and riotous bombast make for a hell of a fun ride.
BonkersIf you’d told me that this is what Dylan Mills would be doing now back in 2003 I would, predictably, have laughed at you. Like a lot of others I was in awe of the then East London teen who slouched into view with two remarkable singles ‘I Luv U’ and 'Fix Up Look Sharp' before releasing the album of the year Boy In Da Corner, which sounded like a symphony written for stuttering and misfiring Vic 20s. Obviously on this Ronseal’d up, does what it says on the tin, Radio 1 friendly banger, there’s no room for 'I Luv U's amazing mix of idiot savant teen txt chatter mixed with razor sharp observations on the battle of the sexes, like Dangerous Liaisons playing out in smoker’s corner. But you’ve heard this already right? Course you have.
It’s the single that even won over Prince William. I bet Paxman curses every time he catches himself going “Some people think I’m bonkers!” The best thing about this song however is the fact that it marked a return to the demotic we’re used to hearing Dizzee spit in, and a quiet abandonment of the fake Jay-Z aping gangsterisms of the otherwise excellent Maths+English. After all calling Bow the “hood” was a bit of a stretch, even for the UK’s best rapper. Road RageIt has an abundance of energy this album.
It feels like you’re constantly trying to herd 100 kinetic frogs into a bin bag just by listening to it. There is a sonic nod to the great lead in single off the last album here, ‘Pussyole (Old Skool)’.
Again, DR is a cheeky British Herbert, not an American thug and his words reflect this again: “Beep Beep! Coming through! Yeah you!” He regales us with a tale of going for a ride in his Mini Cooper just after passing his test only to have an unmarked police car crash into him – ironically about the time he had the single ‘Sirens’ out. It’s funny hearing him go ‘Neeeeooooow!’ imitating a speeding car over tuff street beats, that are almost Wax Trax industrial in strength, with production overtones of the Bomb Squad working with Roland acid equipment.3. Dance Wiv MeIt’s tempting to say that vaguely lame ersatz 80s disco beat producer Calvin Harris has benefitted from his association with Dizzee than the other way round. It’s certainly true that the rapper’s squeaky, up in your grill vocal brashness removes some of the chrome sheen of the production or counters it at least. Calvin’s wine bar beats are given some much needed grit.
Anyhow (or anyhoo, as Diz has taken to rapping) this is another sign that he has realised that becoming like Jay Z in ambition and reach, obviously doesn’t need him to actually mimic the Jigga to any great degree. And this success is probably reflected that this is the first 100,000 selling single in the UK since Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’, which kind of tells you the sort of circles he’s moving in now.4. Freaky FreakyNo one pronounces banana like Dizzee Rascal. He’s using it in a rather more lascivious manner than he did on ‘Fix Up Look Sharp’ though, this being a pretty bracing trip through some of his recent sexual history.
She didn’t give me no drama. After the show she was on my banana” gives you some idea of the level.) And it’s nasty. (Your interpretation of the word nasty will depend entirely on your age and geographical location, I guess.) What’s more interesting though than the notches on Dizzee Rascal’s exceedingly loose fitting belt is his actual flow on this track which is phenomenal. His words clatter out as a riot of plosive consonance and vocal clicks and tics which create a mass bubble wrap bursting session of rhymes.5. Can’t Tek No MoreEasily one of the stand out tracks on the album, this Shy FX enhanced blistering Brixton riot reggae, sampled as it is from Aswad’s ‘Warrior Charge’ and amped up with jeep beats and sub bass. The song found its genesis when Dizzee fell asleep round at his cousin’s house watching Franco Rosso’s 1980 South London film Babylon and woke up during the MC’s chant of “I can’t tek no more of dat” over and over, just to have ShyFX send him the sample woven into the fabric of a new song. The lyrics are a bit 6th form common room ranting at the injustices of the world but just when you think he’s gone all SWP, he bizarrely launches into a rant against the congestion charge.
Dizzee Rascal Boy Da Corner Rar Extractor Lyrics
Not the only track on the album that reminds of the (acceptable) early doors big beat of Monkey Mafia, Lion Rock and Chemical Brothers.6. Chillin Wiv Da Man DemThis fits into the same slot as ‘Da Feelin’‘ did on Maths + English. It simply purrs of Tupac, Dre and even further back to the Isley Brothers or Bill Withers. It’s a blast of bliss hanging in the air like dope smoke on a hot, still summer’s day. His rose coloured spectacles seem to have been enhanced by all the ganja fumes as he casts his mind back to (perhaps) simpler times in Bow, East London with nothing more than getting beaten at Playstation games and arguments about the football to worry about. He frets that people think he’s lost touch with his roots and he doesn’t return home any more.
But as with everything smoothed down by THC intake, reality intrudes in the form of moody, time stretched vocals.7. Dirtee CashA slightly odd and stilted intro gives way to an interpolation/reworking of The Adventures Of Stevie V’s ‘Dirty Cash (Money Talks)’ – the home counties rave classic which is beefed up here with a funky synthesized clavinet. Obviously the lyrics will have more of a resonance in these times of down turn and credit crunch.
While not the best track on the album, this tells you a lot about Dizzee and his sharp pop nous and business acumen (and that of producer/mentor Cage). This isn’t jaw dropping or even that engaging but it does have top 5 hit, probable number one written all over it. The vast majority of these songs could easily be released as singles in their own right.8. Money MoneyOne of the best tracks here and the closest thing to being old school grime.
In fact this almost could have appeared in a more lo fi form on Boy In Da Corner as some kind of fantasist/aspirational anthem. It’s a bouncy slice of braggadocio about appearing “on the telly with Jeremy Paxman” and about his now vastly improved relationships with traffic wardens and, of course, “money money money, girls girls, cash cash”; a direct link back to ‘Bubbles’ the bling anthem off the last album. This album has a lot of contradictory impulses rubbing up against one another and this is a brash UK Jay Z/Loadsamoney flinging handfuls of his dead royalty in the air: “I think I might just quit music and go away.” Except that he always waits until you think you’ve got him figured before giving the rug another tug: “No rims on my car but I had a mortgage before I was 22.”9. LeisureThis track centres round a relatively brave lyric that deconstructs the double myth of gangsta rap as it applies to the modern British inner city youth, with Dylan Mills – rather than Dizzee Rascal – trying to pull the scales from eyes with the sentiment: “It’s only entertainment and I do it at my leisure”.
It has a curiously flat and smooth pop meets aqua crunk flavoured synth groove but to criticize this song for unshowy production is to miss the point as this is one of the few tracks where lyrical message is paramount and not just the part of a bigger whole. He berates street culture for encouraging young people to fight amongst themselves instead of uniting against common enemies.10. HolidayIt’s already another number one for Dizzee so it barely matters that Calvin Harris’ big room Ibiza groove is easily the weakest link on this otherwise great album but even this has it’s redeeming features such as the hilarious and self-deprecating lyrics: “Don’t look at my passport photo/I know I look a bit loco/And I know that my Spanish is so-so.” Interestingly Harris originally offered this half baked track to The Saturdays, who turned it down – undoubtedly for its overpowering whiff of quesillo.11. Bad BehaviourAnother genius move here, that you or I probably wouldn’t have considered, was drafting in Tiesto, the Dutch Edam perfumed Euro trance producer, to give the album closer the big room banger feel.
Dizzee Rascal I Luv U
There are some lyrical hints that, yes, the album title is a rude euphemism and even an unexpected lyrical steal from Judas Priest (“Breaking the law! Breaking the law!”) as well as a bracing Kris Akabusi reference over a booming and fecal bassline rounds off a great album.