By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Depending on their mood, Ultra Bide run the gamut from whimsical gags like "Super Milk," in which Hide becomes a caped hero after a few swigs of that magic elixir, to buzzkill lyrics such as "Very easy end, two seconds then heaven" in "Where We Go Now?" Did these Pac-Rim expatriates come to New York looking for bigger and better things, only to find a twist on the rigid conformism they left behind in Tokyo? The songs "Capitalism" and "Lomein Blues," lamenting unrequited American dreams, or the cursed Jerry Springers and Paula Joneses cluttering our brains on "In the Middle" would lead you to think so. But then they find their bliss in "Sleeping on Bowery Street," in singing the praises of kickin' it on the Lower East Side homeless-boho-style, while "Molt," a paean to anti-linear progress, urges us to cast away control: "Just let it go . . . You'll find something, something super cool, it's gonna be amazing."
Maybe in this country we're so anesthetized by workplace tedium, creature comforts and advertising that it takes three dudes from Japan to see how we are. For their part, Ultra Bide learned the hard way that sometimes a change of scenery is just that. But aren't the results beautiful? (Andrew Lentz)
SMITH & MIGHTYDJ-Kicks (K7)
Trip-hop and drum 'n' bass are more than casual acquaintances, but the music press demands that each season bring a new trend, that what's hot right now be posited in opposition to last year's rage. That works fine if you're peddling designer frocks, but it batters the fine points of music lineage, evolution and influence. The problem starts with the naming of music (trip-hop, drum 'n' bass, big-beat, etc.), pulling it out of context and shaping it into a marketable "phenomenon." It's almost always the media that obsess on labels, which would be fine if this led to an examination of the racism, sexism and classism in the media, and from the A&R guys who determine what gets played. Instead, it feeds into a hierarchical ranking system, with new music that most easily triggers memories of the old shit getting the hype. The artists pay none of that any mind - sometimes to their detriment.
Smith & Mighty, innovators of the "Bristol sound," have failed to get their due not only because of protracted legal battles (following an ill-fated attempt to tango with the majors) but because they simply make good, category-defying music. Listen casually and you're wrapped in the riddims of reggae and dub; you hear an organic, left-of-center take on hip-hop. Long before it was hip to own up to being under the sway of Burt Bacharach, they released versions of "Walk On By" and "Anyone Who Had a Heart" that were cool, classy and from some planet where R&B was still soul food. DJ-Kicks is a comprehensive survey of their work in Bristol, a must-have for anyone interested in trip-hop, drum 'n' bass, the origins of Bristol's sound, or just brilliant music. A nonstop mix of 24 tracks, including the long out-of-print Bacharach covers, the disc opens with the raw emissions of an old-school, underground U.K. sound system in "Amid the Ether," touches down on the scathing "Mr. A&R Man," and closes with a handful of drum 'n' bass tracks such as "Rainbows" and "Bass Speakers," squeezing urban bliss from the stuttering beats.
Perhaps the best thing about Smith & Mighty is how they show that it's heart that leads real talent, and that heart makes genre distinctions nothing more than a handy shopper's guide. (Ernest Hardy)