CHECK -- 02.18.04
Chandler and Rob G
you tired of being the 'last to know' about new music? IMN has partnered with
Chandler and Rob G. of THE
FREE ZONE (88.7 FM) to bring you AIR CHECK. Every other week Chandler and
Rob will review the best albums that have come across their console that you might
have missed. They'll also dig back in the archives to cover a record that time
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if you like:
DJ Shadow, Squarepusher,
with the assumption that I'm not generally a fan of "electronic" music
or anything that even remotely smells like "dance," it may be shocking
to note that this record completely turned my head inside-out. But then, there
is really nothing remotely danceable about this record, and it's not so much electronic
both the digital soundscaping power of computer editing with traditional organic
mixing, Thavius Beck has made the musical equivalent of turning Steve Austin into
the Six Million Dollar Man. "See these tired old blip-hop and remix records?
I can rebuild them. I have the technology. I can make them stronger, faster, better."
revved-up breakbeats give way to digitally twisted, downtempo funeral marches.
There are probably samples of recognizable songs mixed in here with the glitches
and vocal snippets, but they have been so utterly transmogrified they have become
something entirely new.
features minimal guest vocals by I Am That I Am and Subtitle, and I swear I heard
Cedric Bixler-Zavala's (The Mars Volta) vocals in there somewhere. But that's
the beauty of this record. Even amidst the confusion, there is always something
recognizable-here a beat, there a sample-that keeps it grounded. (Chandler)
The Candy Butchers
"Hang On Mike" (RPM/Sony)
Recommended if you like:
Ben Folds Five,
Velvet Crush, Matthew Sweet
Rock star dreams die hard, but if you manage to hang on to your ego, things may
turn out ok. Wrap that message in a blanket of 70s top 40, and you have the Candy
Butchers' latest album "Hang on Mike."
The Mike referred to
in the title track is head Butcher Mike Viola. In fact, Viola makes a first person
appearance in several songs and the entire record reads like pages from his journal.
This may sound like a recipe for narcissism at its worst, but Viola avoids speaking
to an audience of one. The places and people may be from Mike Viola's life, but
the idea of not getting any younger and still not achieving the things you thought
you wanted is more universal and expressed well through these songs.
and harmonies abound and the band, which performed mostly live in the studio,
provide perfect accompaniment. Bittersweet songs never sounded so sweet. The Candy
Butchers' sound fits neatly along side contemporary power poppers Velvet Crush
and Ben Folds Five, but also wouldn't sound out of place next to 70s bands such
as the Raspberries or Badfinger.
the stories of missed opportunities and growing older with a feeling that things
are "Not So Bad At All," Viola and the Butchers have turned what could
have been a mope-fest into a sort of power pop "Pet Sounds" for the
thirty something ageing hipster. Though these songs are clearly a product of personal
disappointment, Viola is able to spin pop gold out of his pitfalls. (Rob G.)
Charizma and Peanut Butter
"Big Shots" (Stones Throw)
if you like:
Black Sheep, Tribe Called Quest, "Golden Age" Hip
Despite a 2003 copyright date on the back, Charizma's high top fade should tell
you everything you need to know about "Big Shots." Recorded during Disney's
Hollywood Basic imprint's brief flirtation with hip-hop, "Big Shots"
sat in the can for ten years due to the usual major label runaround and the untimely
passing of Charizma in December 1993. Peanut Butter Wolf launched Stones Throw
with the release of Charizma's "My World Premier" single in 1996, but
held the full length close to the vest, finally releasing it late last year.
from just a nostalgic tribute to a fallen friend, "Big Shots" shows
some serious potential when put in the context of "golden age" hip hop.
Charizma's style is very much influenced by the Native Tongues, at times sounding
like a less nasal Dres from Black Sheep. Lyrically, Charizma has great enthusiasm
rapping about girls, getting famous, clothes, and apple juice. Despite the talent
on display here, you get the feeling Charizma would have been really great on
the follow up album with a little more time to develop his style further.
Butter Wolf, then known as DJ Chris Cut, lays down sparse jazzy beats that wouldn't
have sounded out of place on A Tribe Called Quest or Black Sheep album. Combined
with Charizma's smooth flow, the whole thing comes off like a West Coast version
of one of Prince Paul's East Coast masterpieces. In fact, I kept expecting to
hear a Prince Paul skit wedged between tracks at some point during the album.
hard to say how this album would have done if it had been released when it was
recorded. Though there's a lot to like here, the overwhelming feeling "Big
Shots" leaves me with is these guys would have put out an amazing second
record. There are a couple of obvious singles here ("Red Light Green Light"
and "Ice Cream Truck") but the rest of the album sounds very typical
of early 90s hip hop. In 1993, it probably would have gotten lost in the shuffle,
but today it strikes like a breath of fresh air against the current backdrop of
iced out MTV gangstas. (Rob G.)
if you like:
Sonic Youth, Blue Cheer, Meat Puppets, Lightning Bolt
are one of the most confusing bands in existence today. One instant they are arena-rock
riff gods, the next they're plunking away a ukulele-and-synth duet. They may be
confusing, but it's certainly a fun ride if you can just hang on.
the "We're so weird! Isn't that crazy?" spastic guitar-and-drums heroics
(and probably as a result the cachet) of many of their contemporaries, Oneida
instead churn out dense yet spacious kraut-tinged psychedelia.
the jammy soundscapes of Can, the acid-twinged twang of the Meat Puppets, and
the fuzzed out, art damaged power of Sonic Youth, "Secret Wars" flits
effervescently between the caffeinated anxiety of "Capt. Bo Dignifies the
Allegations With a Response" and the comparatively pastoral bliss of "Wild
Horses." Guitar riffs give way to repetitive keyboard lines, themselves intimately
entwined with some bass-like creature galloping off together on some three-headed
would be very easy for three players of such technical ability and vision to become
enamored of their own prowess. But the members of Oneida (Hanoi Jane, Fat Bobby,
and Kid Millions) manage to keep the humility in check and their collective tongue
planted firmly in cheek. And I'll be damned if the album-closer "Changes
In the City" isn't a 15-minute freakout that somehow manages to feel pointed
and rewarding rather than silly and posturing. (Chandler)
Grass" (1968 Impulse)
Albert Ayler during his short life cast a long
shadow on the jazz scene. His completely free tenor sax playing divided jazz musicians,
influencing some (such as John Coltrane, who got Ayler signed to Impulse) and
repulsing others. In the late 60s, Ayler, like many other jazz musicians, was
a more conscious effort to make his music accessible to young African-Americans
who grew up with Motown and James Brown rather than Charlie Parker and Miles Davis.
"New Grass" is probably the most notorious result of Ayler's attempt
to connect with the late 60s youth.
Drawing on his own background of
coming up in gut bucket R&B bands, Ayler's sound is huge and raunchy on this
album. Ayler's style is still unmistakably on display here, but the playing is
much less "out" than his previous albums. Through the use of a more
traditional funky soul rhythm section (including Bernard Purdie on drums and a
horn section), Ayler sticks to more conventional song forms. If you were to strip
his horn from the tracks, you could easily hear Aretha Franklin or Otis Redding
singing on top of what his band is laying down.
more cynical critics were quick to label Ayler as having sold out, but his playing
resounds with so much euphoria, it sounds at times like he is going to explode
from feeling so good. It's just impossible to listen to this record and not feel
this album was an honest statement, despite the obviously commercial elements
and soul hippy singing from Ayler's girlfriend Mary Maria. Someone at Impulse
probably suggested he go this direction, but the result hardly sounds forced.
greatest irony about "New Grass" was that not only did it not bring
Ayler the new audience he sought; it also alienated many of his old fans. In fact,
"New Grass" stands as one of the few Ayler albums that has never been
reissued in the US. It's very hard to picture this album ever being radio friendly,
but the mixture of free jazz and funky soul is so intoxicating, "New Grass"
is definitely an LP that deserves another spin. (Rob G.)
Chandler and Rob
Chandler and Rob
G. host "The Free Zone,"
heard Friday nights at 12 midnight on 88.7FM WICR Indianapolis, The Diamond.
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