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RED Reviews

by Brent Sallay
 
 

MM..Food?
MF Doom
Rhymesayers

(out of 5)

If you haven't been paying much attention these past few years, you might not know any different, but Daniel Dumile's stranglehold on and eventual takeover of the state of hip hop as we know it is in full force.

Perhaps a bit of chronology is in order. As legend has it, Dumile started out in the early ’90s as Zev Love X, member of the insanely accessible but under-appreciated group KMD. Embittered by uncooperative record labels and an increasingly gangsta-centric rap community, Dumile changed sides. He covered his face with a mask, adopted the name MF Doom and vowed, as many supervillains do, to one day have his revenge.

True to his promise, he unleashed Operation: Doomsday in 1999, a smooth mix of old-school hip hop that scoffed at the mainstream with its sheer confidence and skill. More albums, under various monikers have followed since then than I care to mention (about three or four a year by some sources), but in the past year, Dumile has really hit his stride, both in terms of quality and his following, with the summer jams of Take Me to Your Leader under the King Geedorah alias and the cutting edge Vaudeville Villain as Viktor Vaughn, all leading up to Madvillainy, the Rodan-sized gin-and-juice collaboration with jazz-friendly producer Madlib earlier this year.

So where to go from there? How about a couple more albums this year? August saw a somewhat rushed sequel to Vaudeville Villain, VV2: Venomous Villain, which was in several instances some of Dumile's best work, but suffered from a too-short runtime and too many guest appearances, and now MM..Food?, the proper nominal follow-up to Operation: Doomsday.

So how does it fare? That's the problem. I can't really tell anymore. Maybe Dumile has spoiled us, but I've almost grown numb to his greatness. Besides, I and all the other critics have already declared Madvillainy the climax of his career. There can't be two climaxes. How were we supposed to know he'd keep going like this? The Beatles finally broke up after we (critics in general, not me personally) gave them all those good reviews. There's an unspoken understanding between artist and critic—we'll give you an “album of the year” or two, but if you want to keep recording after that, it had better all be mediocre. It's not my fault Dumile doesn't play by the rules.

What I do know is that a lot of critics are trying to sound ”critical” by giving this album a respectable but slightly mediocre review. And perhaps they are right. Maybe it doesn't stand up to his other highlights from the past year. But I guarantee that if there had been no Madvillainy or Vaudeville Villain, this would have filled their place, and received nearly all of their praise. And there are a few tracks, like ”Potholderz,” ”Deep Fried Frenz,” and the Sesame Street sampling “Kookies,” that I can foresee spinning for years to come, regardless of what album they happen to be on, or what alias Dumile has released them under.
- BS


The Futureheads
The Futureheads
679 Recordings

(out of 5)

 

All right, granted, this review is about six months late, but perhaps, like a fine wine that has aged for all of six months, it will taste ever so slightly more smooth. Or, in the unfortunate case of The Futureheads, perhaps it will just be dragged out in the street and have dirt thrown unjustly upon it.

A certain local periodical, who I will not name, recently felt it necessary to include The Futureheads' self-titled debut in the token dross slot of their weekly CD review section, which incidentally reads more like a horoscope or a book sleeve.

This “review” spoke little of any actual merits or flaws or, well, facts about the album, but instead, was content merely to revel in a few overwrought analogies as to just how “annoying” the band is. And it was about six months late too.

So what gives? Not talking about the album, making up crappy jokes instead, generally offending a large and unseen demographic without even realizing it—that's my job. But perhaps an even greater injustice is the fact that Magazine X is just dead wrong.

Is the music of The Futureheads annoying? Well obviously, that's entirely a matter of opinion, and not really a good way to describe an album when it isn't really made clear just what sort of a person will find it annoying.

But no, since you're wondering, The Futureheads’ album is not annoying, not in the least. No, 'annoying' is paying $45 for a concert ticket with the wrong time printed on it. “Annoying” is getting the run-around from your cellular phone company regarding overage charges. Can The Futureheads really be that annoying?

Of course not, but there are some people who would like you to think so—the same people who would have you believe that punk rock begins with Blink-182 and ends with Avril Lavigne.

But you know what? It didn't. It started with the Clash, and Gang of Four, and PIL, and The Jam, and Wire, and so many other bands before them. Why, punk has been alive in the human spirit since the dawn of time. Remember when Martin Luther punked the Catholic church? Or when David punked Goliath? Those dudes were totally hardcore. And yeah, maybe their punking antics “annoyed” a couple of popes and family members of giants, but where are those naysayers now? That's right. They're all dead.

The Futureheads understand this. No, their debut isn't groundbreaking, and obviously, it has enough personality to have made at least one enemy at Shitty Weakling, er, Magazine X, but to those of us who like our music to be distinctive, innovative, and just a bit nostalgic, this is one of the freshest, most accomplished debuts of the year.

So which side do you fall on? Try listening to “Meantime,” “Carnival Kids” or “He Knows” for starters, and decide for yourself. That is the punk credo after all, is it not? Be careful though. There are guitars and drums playing, and there's a guy who sings most of the time. Some of you may find that annoying.
- BS


Anniemal
Annie
679 Recordings

Oh man, will you just look at her. The stone-washed overalls. That sandy blonde hair. Mock-wiping her nose on that perfectly pressed, faux-lower-middle-class rag of a sleeve. Posturing coyly in some unfinished basement, more than likely within 12 feet of a fold-up ping pong table. Is this not every 16-year old Utah male's dream?

Generally when a music review starts off with a thorough, unnecessarily verbose description of the album cover, in this case Annie’s Anniemal, it means that the reviewer is sort of a git and/or has not listened to the album. This is different, though. I'm in love.

And generally when a music reviewer falls madly in love with a particular artist purely by virtue of a single candid pose, um, without even having heard the artist's music, it can bias the reviewer to look over certain, let's say, glaring faults.

But come on guys, you know me better than that. Maybe if I don't mention any faults, well, it's because there aren't any. Have you ever thought about that? Is that such a stretch?

But this is all beside the point. In an attempt to regain some of my credibility, I'm going to sacrifice my dignity and live out my fantasy right here in the open, so you can see and judge for yourself. Guts and all. So as Annie says herself, let's start the record, shall we?

[Two minutes later…]

Oh hey, Annie, well look at you. So your first song uses bubble gum as an analogy for how fast you chew through a man. “I don't want to settle down/I just wanna have fun/I don't want to settle down/I just wanna chew gum.” Annie, Annie. This does not bode well. I was sincere. If I'm going to “be your man,” you're going to have to treat me a little better than that. At the very least, if you're going to say something like that, say it in your native Norwegian so it'll still sound hot.

“I'm never gonna stop and I'm sure gonna be your girl.” Hello. What's this song called? “Me Plus One”? Ha! That's sort of a veiled math reference, isn't it? How'd you know I was into that? Nice beat too.

“Feel my heartbeat/Let the melody conceive.” Oh Annie, really? I was a big fan of Röyksopp's lovely chill-out album Melody A.M. That was sweet of you to bring them out for me…

Just a second Annie. I'm a little hungry. I'm gonna go grab a sandwich.

[Twenty minutes later…]

“There is no easy love/The one I'm thinking of/I miss you every day.” Oh Annie, seriously? That's kind of sweet. But, um, I was only gone like five minutes. You're being a little clingy. I'm not so sure about this. I am married, you know.

[Editor's Note: He was gone 20 minutes.]

“I'm happy without you.” Woah. That's kind of hard. You're a strong, resilient woman, aren't you? I like that. Maybe I was wrong. Let's spin the last three songs, all right?

“Come on baby, you're my greatest hit.” Hey Annie, right back at ya.

“Keep on smiling/The sun is shining/And you feel the light/Come together.” Yeah, okay, um, is this all you ever talk about? Did you vote? There is a war going on, you know. Do you have an opinion on that?

“My best friend/Where are you?/Can't seem to find you anywhere.” Yeah, um, I left after all that “sun is shining” crap. Don't get me wrong. We had some good times. But I've realized something. I've realized that there's more for me at home. But I'll always remember…the beats. Those were some pretty tight beats. Good bye, Annie. It's over.

- BS


Funeral
The Arcade Fire
Merge
(out of 5)

[sound of someone waking up after very long nap]

Oh, hey guys, what's up? Wha'd I miss? How long was I out? What have you all been listening to lately? The Arcade Fire? Oh yeah, they're pretty good. I was going to write about them like two months ago, but, ah, I just didn't get around to it. I got things going on, you know?

OK, seriously though, unless you've been living with your arm trapped under a rock that doesn't have a dial-up connection for the past month (in which case, I'm glad you've made it out alive, and that you've chosen to read RED right away instead of going to the hospital), you've surely heard a little bit of the praise being thrown around for this album. In fact, you're probably sick of it by now. But here's a little recap for scrappy little Johnny, who's currently cradling his half-arm in the small of his chest and using a used gum wrapper as a tourniquet.

“...one of the best albums of the year, hands down...” --Tiny Mix Tapes
“...a resounding success...” --cokemachineglow
“...one of the most engaging and thrilling pop statements of 2004...” --Delusions of Adequacy
“...a debut record that simply refuses to be ignored...” --Junk Media

But wait, where does RED stand on the matter? Are they not on the ball anymore? Is Jeremy Mathews really as sexy as everybody says he is? And why aren't there more pictures of him on this site?

Well, I can't answer all your questions, but I can tell you this. Oh sure, it would have been really easy to review this album the same time that everybody else did, not knowing how they were going to review it, having no benchmark as to how much or little to praise it, fearing desperately that my review might not go along with the flow of the others, and that I might forever be stripped of my credibility as a music critic. That's the route most people took.

But the hard thing to do, the really hard thing, is to wait three weeks, wait until all the other votes have been tallied, and then completely ignore them, search deep within your soul for your own opinion, and then, wait to see if the album truly stands the test of time--that being, once again, about three weeks.

In that regard, Funeral really does take you back to mid-September 2004 in a way that few albums could, to a more innocent time when we still didn't know who would win Big Brother or the Amazing Race 5. A time when we were still sizing up Joey, and crossing our fingers for an HBO sweep at the Emmys. Yes, it was a magical time, but that time is gone now, and one of the only things that has survived intact is, you've guessed it, The Arcade Fire.

Basically what I'm trying to say is that, yes, the album is still as good as everyone's been saying it is, and also, if you already figured that out for yourself, then congratulations, you are very smart, but if you haven't, it is not too late, it is never too late, as I have hopefully proven with this review, and also, please keep reading RED. We'll try to be more on the ball next time.
- BS

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