Friday, September 29, 2017
WORDS FOR THE NEW MUSIC OF 2017: PART ONE
Released September 1, 2017
-I guess none of us should have been that surprised but regardless, we were and so thankfully, the new results were more than worth the wait.
Yes, when James Murphy announced and orchestrated the dissolution of LCD Soundsystem five years ago after releasing three highly celebrated and influential albums and the band's epic farewell shows performed at Madison Square Garden, all chronicled in Directors Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern's excellent documentary "Shut Up And Play The Hits" (2012), it would not have been unheard of for fans to begin speculating when the full blown reunion would occur. As for me, the finality of the band felt to be more than sincere. Yet, when Murphy announced the re-formation, I was certainly curious as to the results and now that they have arrived, I am thrilled to inform you that "American Dream," the fourth album from LCD Soundsystem, is easily one of 2017 finest releases.
With 10 tracks and a running time of just shy of 70 minutes, LCD Soundsystem return to our lives with their signature idiosyncratic blend of post-punk rock dance floor rhythms that lovingly reference David Bowie, Talking Heads, Brian Eno and the late 1970's/1980's era of CBGB'S while somehow eschewing with nostalgia in favor of remaining up to the minute with its sense of existential urgency, most specifically, being middle aged in the 21st century with more years behind than ahead.
From the album's opening Krautrock slow jam of "oh baby," to the Talking Heads circa "Speaking In Tongues" (released June 1, 1983) influenced "change yr mind" and "other voices" (itself featuring an outstanding vocal contribution from LCD member Nancy Whang), to the pulsating tribal rhythms of the nine minute "how do you sleep?", the anthemic "call the police," dance floor epic of "tonite," the synthetic doo wop of the album's title track and the droning finale entitled "black screen" plus two more tracks, James Murphy (who again handles the lion's share of the instruments) creates a palpably engaging and often emotionally propulsive musical odyssey that demonstrates that the five years away did not dull his talents in the least.
Following the same music and studio aesthetic as its predecessors, LCD Soundsystem effortlessly bridges the gap between a handmade DIY approach and the machine driven synthetic as the 10 songs on "American Dream" musically paint a picture of middle aged malaise and angst that is as earnest as it is humorous and absurd. There are moments when Murphy sounds almost bemused that he has lived as long as he has, and especially into the venomous tenor of our current American landscape. And so, sometimes what else is there to even do except to "dance yrself clean," as an older LCD song exclaimed.
Let us all sweat it out together with this excellent return from oblivion.
Released September 8, 2017
-"Don't ask me why I play this music
It's my culture, so naturally I use it"
Those lyrics, which originate from the song "Pride" from Living Colour's brilliant second album "Time's Up" (released August 20, 1990), is a song that has resonated with me to a primal level. It is a song that I would wear as battle scarred armor if I were able and I would imagine, the band would as well, as it is a song that defiantly lays claim to the inherent right of Black people to write, record, perform and even listen to rock music, most often perceived as existing as "White music."
Now, eight years after their previous release and with five years of on and off recording, Living Colour, the collective of Corey Glover (vocals), Vernon Reid (guitars), Doug Wimbish (bass guitar) and Will Calhoun (drums), return in full flame throwing force with "Shade," a more blues based album that also serves as their most unapologetically BLACK musical statement to date.
With their trademark amalgamation of hard rock and heavy metal with jazz, soul and even hip-hop, Living Colour fuses three blistering cover songs from Robert Johnson's "Preachin' Blues," Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" and The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Who Shot Ya?" (on which Glover's vocals are righteously explosive) with ten new originals to creative an impassioned, combative, confrontational yet powerfully inclusive battle music for the resistance in 2017 while also crafting the lineage of Black music from the past to the present.
From the punk rock cage match fury of "Pattern In Time," the lion's roar of "Come On" and "Program," the growling "Glass Teeth," the unsettling atmospherics of "Blak Out," the triumphant "Invincible," the elegiac "Two Sides" featuring album guest George Clinton and more, Living Colour's "Shade" feels like a 15 round boxing match against the world with the band emerging, bruised, bloody yet victorious and with still enough force to swagger out of the ring and into the night for another round. Essentially, the musical representation of historically being Black in America.
Black Lives Matter and equally, Black Rock Matters and we need Living Colour more than ever, dear readers and listeners. With "Shade," the band reunites with us with an album as open hearted as it is two-fisted.
Released April 28, 2017
-This one initially left me scratching my head.
"Humanz," the first new release in six years from the animated band Gorillaz (as conceived by the collective vision of journeyman musician Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett) is not in the same league as the group's first three releases, especially the doomsday dance rhythms of "Demon Days" (released May 23, 2005) or the band's finest work to date, the kaleidoscopic "Plastic Beach" (released March 8, 2010).
In fact, for quite a spell during the album, and with the lack of Albarn's presence being overt by any means, I really began to wonder if this was even a Gorillaz album at all as it felt to be something akin to something created by Handsome Boy Modeling School, soundscapes envisioned and produced by the non-vocal team of Prince Paul and Dan The Automator with all manner of special guests taking the lead vocals. Now, it is not as if guest stars have not featured on past Gorillaz albums but to the degree they appear upon "Humanz," the effect was disorienting as if Gorillaz were not present upon their own album.
Yet, after some spins, I am thinking that perhaps the heavy prevalence of special guest stars may have been precisely the point. "Humanz" is exactly what is advertised within its own title as it is an album that gives us a chorus of voices rather than mainly Albarn's in a work that serves as a restless journey to and through an apocalyptic nightclub as the world threatens to extinguish itself--certainly a dark mirror Albarn, Hewlitt and their animated co-horts have designed to hold up to all of us as we dance our bodies ragged.
Let's face it...many of the tracks are indeed booming. From "Ascension" featuring Vince Staples to the terrific buzzsaw groove of "Charger" featuring Grace Jones to the slinky, seductive yet jittery soul of "Submission" featuring Danny Brown and Kelela, the woozy fairground of "Carnival" featuring Anthony Hamilton, the grim gospel of "Let Me Out" (with Mavis Staples and Pusha T) and "Hallelujah Money" (with Benjamin Clementine), the anthemic finale of "We Got The Power" plus even more and also including brief interludes starring actor Ben Mendelsohn as a crusty voiced Brit riding the elevator towards the festivities, "Humanz" invites us all to join the ranks of the "cool clown clan" to hold and claw onto each other in vivid, vulgar, vivacious song and dance within an unfathomable yet very true Trump universe. And all the while, his name never being mentioned even once throughout the album.
"The sky's falling baby/Drop dat ass 'fo it crash!"