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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
“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.
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.
The Arcade Fire
[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
“...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
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.