K, we’re now 6 months into 2009. I haven’t bothered saying much about music as I now buy CDs so infrequently these days (at least compared to the 90s when I bought one a week at least), but over the last 6 months or so I did make enough purchases to justify a discussion of some of them.
Fishbone – Nuttasaurusmeg 101: Fossil Fuellin’ the Funkay
I like Fishbone more than I should, and definitely more than their discography would warrant, though I would argue at length that 80% of “Give a Monkey a Brain and he’ll Swear he’s the Centre of the Universe” stacks up against ANYTHING that the 90s had to offer. Find it and check it out for yourself.
Nuttasaurusmeg is a best of and rarities collection spread over two CDs with each disc having their moments. Disc 1 is the better known stuff, the singles and standouts, if you know Fishbone you’ve heard most of this.
Unfortunately their all time classic “Servitude” is absent, big mistake in my view.
What strikes me is how similar Fishbone’s career mirrored that of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, minus the millions of sales and critical success. The Chillis started punky-ska with Uplift Mofo Party Plan and Freakey Styley, before becoming a little more serious (read mainstream) after the breakout Blood Sugar Sex Magik (an awesome album by the way).
CD 2 is a bunch of live stuff and previously unreleased tracks, and though nothing jumps out as classic it is all fun stuff and at the very least shows that Fishbone never ever took themselves too seriously.
I won’t be that dick who say “If you don’t like it that’s because you just don’t get it”, but I will say you either like Fishbone or you loathe them, there isn’t much middle ground.
I myself like them.
Final Rating – 7 / 10. Disc 2 is fun and sounds fresh over a decade on. Disc 1 Greatest Hits misses a couple of notable cuts, especially the masterful “Servitude”.
Method Man & Redman – Blackout 2
I heard that Meth & Red were going again after many years of solo stuff, but was a bit concerned that the title seemed a little lazy and that they might phone this one in.
I still think I was half right at least, especially when you listen to Blackout 1 & 2 back to back.
Meth and Red remain two of the funniest and wittiest MCs going around, and with the original they managed to make a really strong album without resorting to cheap hooks and guest appearances, aside from the track 4 Seasons. Blackout 2 doesn’t tarnish this reputation too much, as the lyrics remain mostly strong, but the production has slipped noticeably, and I think that they tried to put too many tracks on the album.
Perhaps killing off a couple of the dodgy songs and releasing a lean mean album with less filler might have let me compare this more favourably, but having listened to this about 7 or 8 times now I still think it is a little too “samey” as the original disc, without having a standout song to separate it or lift it above.
Final Rating – 6.0 / 10. Sounds too samey when compared to Blackout 1, but without most of the wit and cheek. 123 guest stars don’t help matters much.
Mos Def – The Ecstatic
Speaking of over-rated, up until this album Mos Def was the most over-rated rapper in my collection.
There, I said it.
Mos has one of the most unique flows going around, and has some of the most intricate wordplay in his songs, and he says something in every song. You won’t find too much “Raise your hands in the air” or “I’m gonna rock so hard your pants will fall off”, Mos is too smart for that.
Then why over-rated? Because Mos Def has shown enough over the years to suggest he should by now have released several masterpieces, only he hasn’t, aside from his collaboration with Talib Kweli, “Black Star”.
In fact his previous 2 albums both sucked big time, Tru Magic and The New Danger, mainly because Mos refuses to rest on his laurels, and is relentlessly experimental. Even Black on Both Sides, had long boring sections in between some great tracks.
All I would say to Mos is please make a couple of albums first that justify the laurels!
The Ecstatic is step one. Mos finally decides to release something with commercial sensibilities, short, sharp tracks that highlight his verbal gymnastics and remain intelligent yet head bobbingly good.
I only bought this last week but having listened to it 3 times now I’m happy that Mos is back and look forward to his next, and to the many times I will be listening to The Ecstatic before 2009 is out.
Final Rating – 8.0 / 10. This is the mos’ Mos album yet. Looking forward to the next.
People Under The Stairs – Fun DMC
I can forgive the lame title as PUTS are awesome, and massively under-rated. That said Fun DMC isn’t their best work (that would be the brilliant O.S.T.) but it compares more than favourably with almost anything else that they have done.
PUTS always fill the 70+ minutes on a CD with a huge number of tracks, and take great care with their production. Lyrically Fun DMC is as strong as their early stuff, and Double K is as superb as ever, with Thes One being better than he is often given credit, though he has improved over the years.
After the Stepfather album left me a little concerned, Fun DMC is a great surge forward once more, PUTS deserve far more credit in a world where Jay Z and Eminem release lazy albums every few years to both critical acclaim and massive sales.
The PUTS sound is different to anything else on the market, but if I had to pigeonhole I would put them in the Ugly Duckling, De La Soul and Jurassic 5 mould. Inoffensive, clever and great production, no negatives there.
Final Rating – 8.0 / 10. Clever rhymes and excellent production. Oh and special mention to the song that uses only 80s computer game music as background, and even better the one that samples almost every classic big break over one prolonged verse.
Boom Crash Opera – Dancing in the Storm
Growing up in Australia in the late 80s and early 90s you couldn’t avoid two things, Noiseworks and Boom Crash Opera, and listening to them again now tells me that wasn’t a bad thing at all.
Boom Crash opera perhaps shone brighter of the two but also burned out quicker, with “These Here are Crazy Times” being the lone standout in their career, but what a standout it is.
Dancing in the Storm has BCO running through a greatest hits collection acoustically, what stands out is the strength of the earlier vintage stuff, and the fact that Dale Ryder, who must by now be well into his 40s can still belt out a pitch perfect rendition of each and every song.
Given that most tracks here are 20 years old this is more for those who were around when they were first released, but a collection that nonetheless holds up extremely well, and one that I can actually leave on when my folks are in town. That is actually supposed to be a recommendation.)
Final Rating – 7.5 / 10. Great strongs, well written, well played and brilliant vocals. Happy times for 90s teens.
Roots Manuva – Slime & Reason
Thanks to Witness (1 Hope) Roots Manuva has my unconditional promise that I will check out everything he releases until he croaks. Like Busta Rhymes he has a tendency to allow himself to go on cruise control for too long, but Slime & Reason is a pretty strong effort where even though a lot of tracks feel similar at least they are of high quality.
Roots has a lackadaisical flow and incorporates a lot of his own brand of jargon, perhaps it is British slang, perhaps Roots original, I can’t tell and don’t care.
The problem is that when someone that has released a classic puts out something that is merely “very good” I feel let down. This is actually quite a good album, just not so much when compared with “Run Come Save Me”, his high water mark.
Final Rating – 7.5 / 10. One great song away from an 8.0 or perhaps better, still a strong album with little filler.
Busta Rhymes – Back on my Bullshit
I think I like Busta Rhymes’ persona more than Busta Rhymes the rapper. His frenetic flow is undeniable and elastic wordplay impressive, but Busta the man is far more intriguing and likeable to me.
That aside, “Genesis” from earlier this decade is a great album, and “ELE” and “It Ain’t Safe no More” are strong efforts also. Lately though it seems Busta has lost the plot, and instead of trying to have fun he is more focused on cracking the charts and re-proving himself to a skeptical audience that think of him more of a prankster than a credible artist.
After Back on My Bullshit B.O.M.B. that number includes me unfortunately. Delayed for more than a year due to his label and ultimately Busta himself, I still think it needed more time and quality checking. I put in the disc to upload some stuff to my ipod and could only justify putting three tracks across, one of which I have since deleted.
This is an open message to every rapper: ENOUGH with the voice altering stuff which makes you sound like a robot every chorus, Cher should have killed the gimmick with that abortion of a song “Believe”, yet thanks to that idiot Kanye every lazy bonehead thinks that whacking four or five tracks on an album that feature the technique will improve sales.
I was sick of it before it started and absolutely hate it now. Busta disagrees with me so until he has a policy change I will have to pre-vet his albums before purchasing them, as wasting my money on inane crap like half of this album can’t be justified as a sound investment.
Final Rating – 4.5 / 10. Busta, Busta, Busta! What happened?