Record Reviews: Badd Santa, Beanie Sigel, Regime Noir
Peanut Butter Wolf Presents
Badd Santa: A Stones Throw Xmas | Urban Outfitters
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(Click to enlarge)
(Click to enlarge)
Its easy to be a Grinch about holiday music because, well, most of it sucks, and best to acknowledge that up front. But it doesnt have to. The proof is L.A.based Stones Throw Records new Christmas compilation, a success for the following reasons. While the subject matter is holiday-centric, the music is decidedly not. Then theres label-boss Peanut Butter Wolfs meticulous crate digging, vault raiding and deejaying. Stones Throw staples Baron Zen and James Pants are represented, of course, with their bizarre new-wave take on Christmas funk. The sugar-voiced Georgia Anne Muldrow contributes the spacey The Kwanzaa Song. But its the obscure, kitschy gems that stand out. Are your holidays lacking Miami bass? The 69 Boys and Quad City DJs provide the pulsating What I Want for Christmas. If reggaes your bag, check out Coco Teas Christmas Is Coming. And, of course, the abundance of old-school hip-hop and soul from artists including James Brown, Scoopy and Hard Call Xmas (who riffs on LLs classic Rock the Bells). The best track transcends all these genres, though: the 60s psyche syrup of the Free Designs Close Your Mouth (Its Christmas). Alas, the album is available exclusively at Urban Outfitters. Yep, were back to the ghost of Christmas past, present and future synergetic marketing campaigns. Oh well, why fight it? Might as well pick up those cargo pants youve had your eye on while youre at it.
The Solution | Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam
2005s The B. Coming was Beanie Sigels most consistent and compelling album, but it came at a price: Siegs was facing serious jail time on a count of assault, and the darkest recesses of the record suggested Elliott Smith or Joy Division in how they all seemed to be preparing for the inevitable. Though he eventually ended up with probation, its not like things got any easier, from bizarre YouTube clips to his fathers grisly murder. In a likely attempt to distance himself from all of this, he signed off on his most atypical track to date; backed by the Runners blaring synths, R. Kelly announces dominance of the charts, the clubs and the streets in one of his more overbearing and formulaic guest spots.
As anyone familiar with the Broad Street Bully could guess, Sigel doesnt sound like he has any of his heart invested in club hopping unless its to stomp someone out. But rather than embrace this sort of artistic complexity, as he did on previous outings, The Solution merely compartmentalizes Sigels moods in an attempt to please one type of listener at a time.
Following the futuristic-sounding opening triad, Go Low sports a palpable sense of violence thats malevolent even for a Beanie Sigel track, but its counterbalanced by Rock Citys dime-store Akonisms. Its a fitting bridge toward the midsection of The Solution, which is fueled almost solely by Sigels contempt for bitches, faggots and any rapper that doesnt happen to be within his inner circle. Granted, if you ever liked the less socially conscious aspects of Ice Cubes earlier work, its hard not to get puerile kicks out of Sigels brutish sarcasm. Haze, Hustlas & Highways is a smirking, cantankerous rant about the obsolescence of loose-fitting clothes that summarizes Sigels worldview in one line; Im a dinosaur/you n****s more like what I look for in a whore pussy. Consequently, in his Big Poppa loverman mode (Im In), he still can barely contain his disgust: Im something like a pussy connoisseur/Youre more like a pussy kinda whore.
As was the case with his debut (1999s The Truth), The Solution doesnt get truly interesting until Sigel focuses his rage inward rather than outward, and it only happens in the final third. Forget the talking-point samples in Judgment Day (a healthy chunk of Black Sabbaths War Pigs) and Dear Self (James Blunt cashing in on the Rocs obsession with Milquetoast limeys); as was the case with DMX, theres a feeling that the internal wrangling is becoming something of a crutch to balance out the increasingly unhinged thug talk, but at least it feels like a light at the end of a record thats tunnel visioned in its pursuit of cheap thrills.
The MySpace page, now so ubiquitous as an entry-level portal into the industry, offers the potential fan an important first glimpse into a bands aesthetic soul. Within its templated audio-visual confines four MP3s, some amateur videos, photos and a bio local duo Regime Noir (www.myspace.com/regimenoir) do themselves proud.
Their military-garbed home page, manifesto-like words and images (Remember the Past above a photo of the McCarthy hearings; Pray for Salvation atop a religious fresco) and Cold War aura suggest a thinking band without beating us over the head. They include George Orwell and Jean Cocteau as top friends theres message, but mystery too.
Of course, its the music that makes a chance cyber meeting with Regime Noir such a nice surprise: serious, best-kept-secret talent. Making good on their claim to be born from the dystopia found in the streets of downtown and East L.A., Regime Noir marry ultra-articulate bass lines, swaths of post-punk/new-wave guitar and frantic faux-flamenco flurries and add imploring emo vocals dipped in juicily exotic harmonies. Beats are urgent and garagey; hand-percussion is of the streets and in the moment. Mood is confrontational yet palatable; theres melody, momentum and a genuine sense of flab-free sonic purpose. They recall Mars Volta, with proggy structures and multicultural mashups, but so do Fugazi and Gang of Four.
To date, Regime Noir as documented in four impressively emotive live vids (complete with deft mystery drummer) have mostly played Eastside and Hollywood dives and loft parties. Hopefully theyll shake off the siege mentality that seeps from their page (and keep the site updated with upcoming shows), because the band makes some gorgeously adventurous and authentic sounds.
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