Thursday, August 9, 2007

Top 5 Party Crashers

"The life cycle of the turtle is a wondrous thing..."

Since I'm consistently too tired to write a long post about one subject (oh, M.I.A. post, we fought it out but we're still friends), I've decided to take a page from one of my favorite critics/arch-nemesis Greil Marcus. His column "Real Life Rock and Roll Top Ten" used to drive me nuts with its various obsessions (situationism, Elvis, Sleater Kinney) but it always had at least one entry that was worth reading. Thus, I introduce:

The Top Five Party Crashers

1. Lil Wayne in the New Yorker: It's odd over the last couple of years how the New Yorker is suddenly covering rap. My brother and I laughed our asses off when, in the article on Houston rap, Sasha Frere Jones said that, unlike other rappers, Houston rappers aren't afraid to rap about death and racist cops. We were like "Does he even listen to rap?" The Dylan comparison in the article seems weird at first until you think about it. Wayne's love of words and his relentless delivery reminds me of Dylan circa "Bringing It All Back Home." And if you think comparing a lyrical genius like Dylan to a mere rapper is insulting, just listen closely to the lyrics to "It's a Hard Rain Gonna Fall"--the song is leaden with clunker lines.

2. Vitalic- OK Cowboy: Ridic. Maybe it's because I just listened to this album while buzzing off a crappy cafeteria (my work has a cafeteria) Vanilla Creme coffee with extra sugar, but this sounds like the greatest techno album ever made. A lot of the songs feature that electronic classical, "Bach Rocks" moog sort of sound that Daft Punk does on "Voyager" and "Verdis Quo." Songs like these always remind me of the soundtracks to 60s Sci-Fi movies or old educational films about the breeding cycle of turtles in the Galapagos.

3. The Old Grey Whistle Test, Vol. 3: I checked out from the library the third volume of performances collected from the English 70s music program, and while for sheer starpower the collection is kind of weak (no Bowie, no Roxy Music, no Stones, all who are on earlier volumes), there are some amazing performances from unexpected artists. Roger Daltrey's version of Leo Sayer's "Giving It All Away" is just begging to be put in a Wes Anderson movie. At first listen, the song seems kind of lame, another in a long line of boy-loses-his-innocence songs that the 70s are full of. But for me, the magic of the song is how cheesy it is. In a weird postmodern twist, the song is both too lame and overdone to be sincere and yet open to being sincerely appreciated for being so cheesy. It's a sort of similar phenomenon to people who appreciate Justin Timberlake songs because they're excited by how excited everyone else is about them.

4. "Bangin' Screw" off Paul Wall's "Get Money and Stay True": I checked out Paul Wall's second album from the library on a lark, but I've been pleasantly surprised. Most of the production is done by Houston rap/house music DJ Mr. Lee and it's full of lush, buzzing keyboards and synthetic choir voices. Paul Wall is still a pretty generic rapper, but he flows well and that's all the music needs. My favorite song is "Bangin' Screw," which has a beat that reminds me of the music from the old NES games, "California Games," where you could surf, skateboard, and BMX bike. The song's about driving around Houston listening to the late great Houston DJ Screw (pioneer of the chopped-and-screwed style of production) and it feels very nostalgic. It feels nostalgic to me too, but more because the music reminds me of playing old Nintendo games during the summer, buzzed from soda and candy.

5.'s "Ham of the People" article on Al Pacino: It never occurred to me that Pacino might enjoy hamming it up--I always just assumed he was resigned to chewing up scenery because that's what directors wanted and what paid the bills. He's certainly gotten the most reaction from his over the top performances (My brother and I are constantly repeating the line from Michael Mann's "Heat" where Pacino taunts Hank Azaria by telling him his mistress (played by Ashley Judd) has an ass "you want to take a bite of!"; we can't imagine how anyone on the set kept a straight face after that line). His performance in "Any Given Sunday" often feels like a parody because he was injecting pathos in what was basically a grizzled caricature of the long suffering football coach who lives only for the game. When he makes his before-the-game speech about how he's lost everything in his life to football, it's hard not to laugh.