PRINCESS SUPERSTAR Last of the Great 20th Century Composers (Corrupt)
These two albums from the paler side of the rap spectrum are living proof that 1) being/sounding white is the hottest new trend in hip-hop since parachute pants, and 2) Prince Paul could make fingernails on a chalkboard sound dulcet.Listen to Princess Superstar : Real Audio Format Do It Like A Robot Meet You Halfway
The clown Prince only produces one of Princess Superstars songs (I Hope I Sell a Lot of Records at Christmastime), but a twisted knack for humor is shared by both. For Superstar, her cup overfloweth with winking witticisms and smarmy self-irony as she updates Deborah Harrys rap-pop fusions for the 00s. Crossing Valley Girl drawl, Third Coast flows and porno panting, she slams syllables into songs like Do It Like a Robot and Meet You Halfway, backed up by a digital storm of electro-funk effects and old-school drum bursts. Sex is a central theme on much of the album, though the most eXXXplicit song, Come Up to My Room, is perhaps the albums most banal. Superstar shines far brighter on Kool Keiths Ass, where her low-end lust for Keiths derrière spooks even hip-hops freakiest fellow.Listen to Paul Barman : Real Audio Format Joy of Your World MTV Get Off the Air, pt. 2
If Princess Superstar comes off like a Vivid girl with Lower East Side attitude, MC Paul Barman is more like the cybergeek lusting after her with one-hand fantasies. His Its Very Stimulating EP is so outrageous in its puerility, it almost seems parodic. Its easy to dismiss Barman as the Ivy League Eminem for lines like I like to suck toes/yours secrete fructose, but if you can get beyond his juvenile predilections and dorky voice, hes easily one of the funniest rhymers out there right now. Barman and Superstar are made for each other, and they team up on the albums most hilarious (and sexplicit) song, MTV Get Off the Air, Pt. 2. Sample the banter Barman: Ill snack on your pooper-hole/throughout the Superbowl; Superstar: Im like Chase/dip your card in and out/thanks, see, stacks o cream are coming out.
The glue to Barmans whole shtick is Prince Paul, whose campy sound on the EP accents Barmans absurdities with a tongue-in-cheek sensibility. Pauls track for Joy of Your World is a silly, happy tune of harps and flutes punctured by a kinetic breakbeat, while Salvation Barmy hops along with a nursery-rhyme bounce. Though Barmans lascivious limericks are amusing in their own right, Paul helps boost his new protégé from the outhouse to the art house . . . or at least the alleyway between the two.
THE ESSEX GREEN Everything Is Green (Kindercore)
Meet me in the Sixties, goes the hook line and title of the Essex Greens warmest, most inviting song, effectively defining an entire movements aesthetic, if not its intentions. Like everyone else associated with Elephant 6, the Athens, Georgiabased label/collective that has brought us Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control and the Essex Green, this band doesnt so much emulate as replicate the psych-drenched sounds of West Coast and English underground pop circa 1967. What all these bands want from that era, however, is less certain.
More Pearls Before Swine than Pink Floyd, the Essex Green offer a specifically sylvan sort of neo-psych. Each winsome track comes garlanded with flutes, strings, tablas, organ or exotic percussion. On the back of the CD insert, theres a painting of a gnome playing an accordion in a leafy green glade. If you can hum the tune hes playing, you probably need this disc. Even if you cant, the Essex Greens music is consistently surprising without being willfully quirky, earnest without being embarrassing, and refreshingly melodic. It can rock, too.
Theres just that nagging why thing. It never was our fate/us living three decades late, goes another lyric in Sixties. But precisely what the folky folks in the Essex Green long for remains elusive. Not social commitment or communal protest, because its going to be Darling, just you and me. If the dream is escape from millennial commodification, digitization and death-of-rock malaise, well, okay. But nothing Ive ever heard or read, good or bad, suggests that the goal of the 60s was having a glade to ourselves. (Glen Hirshberg)
NO DOUBT Return of Saturn (Trauma/Interscope)
A lot has been made of No Doubts transformation from ska-meisters to new wavers, but thats not what makes their long-awaited Return of Saturn so disconcerting. While the band deserves credit for exploring facets of its personality that were only hinted at on its breakthrough Tragic Kingdom, the new set lacks Kingdoms cathartic exuberance, not to mention the myriad bouncy sing-along hits that made Gwen Stefani to the 90s what Madonna was to the 80s.