Yo! Bum Rush The Show - Def Jam
It's sparse, tinny, beats only made Bumrush's presence seem that much more of immediate importance. It created a punkish blueprint to It Take's a Nation of Millions.. (Think of Bumrush as P.E.'s Clash to Nation's London Calling). Just consider. Where would today's breakbeat-ridden electronica acts be without the skinny funk of Bumrush? Where would the amazing New-York style production of Wu-Tang Clan be without that single resonating piano note repeated throughout "Miuzi Weighs a Ton?" Hell, where would post-P.E. M.C.'s and D.J.'s be without Chuck's baritone political diatribes and Terminator X's chunky scratchwork laid out so articulately in their debut? Just givin' props where props is due.
P.S. Love the site! What a great combo: intelligent reviews and great musical taste! Much love to all the originators out there.
It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back -
Def Jam 1988.
Still, we're living in 1996, and in 1996, no matter how cool the piano line in "Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos" sounds, the song is still too damn long. No matter how much we enjoy Flavor Flav's wacky antics and delivery, "Cold Lampin' With Flavor" still blows. And no matter how groovy and wild "She Watch Channel Zero?!" (with a Slayer sample!) and "Bring The Noise" are, they still aren't quite as interesting as the stuff that P.E. and dozens of copycat bands have done since. I'm not really trashing the album, you understand; I agree that, even today, it's a really fun and mostly entertaining listen. I'm just saying that, regardless of its historical importance, it's simply not the most interesting rap album ever recorded. At least, not to my mindless noise-hungry rock and roll ears.
Unlike the two records that follow, this is practically a frigging greatest hits compilation. It works both as an album and song-by-song. There's not a less-than-classic-sounding track on it (bar the four short instrumental linky things and perhaps "Rebel Without a Pause," but apparently that was a hit or something, so what do I know?). Even things that would normally be faults strengthen the album--"Black Steel" gains strength from its gargantuan length, "Cold Lampin With Flavor" works BECAUSE it's so damn nonsensical--sometimes energy is meant to trump comprehensibility.
On top of it all, it all sounds lived-in--they don't sound like they're TRYING to revolutionize music or make history, they just do so incidentally while making great damn music. And as good as the lyrics are, they're simply part of a more important whole. This album is a historical landmark, yes, but that's beside the point. In its own right, it's one of the most ENTERTAINING pure party albums ever. And that's why I extoll it to high heaven, not because I'm a white yuppie stereotype (although I am, to the nines).
On the subject of heaven, here are some other albums that I just heard and kick ass:
Portishead Third--And Portishead joines Nick Drake in the hallowed ranks of depressing artists that have two classic albums out of a three-album career. Ironically enough, neither of them are Dummy. Blimey. One of the darkest experimental albums ever recorded that doesn't suck.
Mott the Hoople Self-titled--Well, they're not David Bowie, but they'll do for a minor glam classic. What IS it with 1973? 1969's getting some COMPETITION in the Best Year Ever Contest, mite. (blimey)
Unfortunately, neither of those albums are as good as this one. C'est la vie, as they say in France. Those dad-blasted FRENCH (*shake Midwestern redneck fist*).
Fear Of A Black Planet - Def Jam
The Bomb Squad, who I guess is responsible for turning noise into music for the band, really come into their own on this one. Not every single song is a keeper, but the absolute skill and tight seamlessness of hits like "Burn Hollywood Burn," "Welcome To The Terrordome," and the title track are impressive enough to make me completely forget that the band probably really hates me 'cause I'm a white guy. I could live without the little short snippety songs, but some of 'em have great noises anyway, so who cares? The strength, youth, and vigor of the two principal vocalists alone would be enough to make this album a classic; the fact that it has memorable music, dance-happy beats, and lyrics so intelligent that even I stand up and take notice just reinforces the issue. Good album cover, too. Why only an 8? It goes on too long. Needs a little fat trimming. Like that flabass Dennis Rodman, for example.
* Apocalypse 91...The Enemy Strikes Black - Def
Jam 1991. *
The lyrics discuss the black community's role in destroying itself, the music is mean, and the production is amazing. They defiantly sample their own past records (they did that on Fear Of A Black Planet, too, but I forgot to mention it), their words are more inflammatory and violent than ever before (e.g. "How To Kill A Radio Consultant," "Get The F--- Outta Dodge," and of course, "By The Time I Get To Arizona," a smooth soul-inflected groover about murdering the governor of that fine state), and the melodies are at their catchiest ever (The horn-and-"ooooohh"-laden "Can't Truss It," the hilariously jaunty "I Don't Wanna Be Called Yo Niga," and all the bass-driven stuff on the second half are the ones that really grab my rhythm bone and twist it around and around and around until it lops off, but all the others are fine, too).
In short, this is the Public Enemy record that I feel has the most to offer a rock and roll fan. The noise/music is repetitive but interesting, the lyrics are intriguing and (for a change) not completely racist (not that I'm condemning them - If I were black, I'd hate white people, too!), and the record as a whole never slows down. There are no little snippets getting in the way of the art; it's all action, all the time. Some people claim that this is P.E. at a standstill, on their way out. I completely disagree. From a musical standpoint, this is the perfect Public Enemy album. They finally perfected their style to such an extent that (if you ask me, anyway) there may never be another rap album that lives up to this level of creativity and consistency. But then, I don't know jack about rap, so maybe I should just give my praise a rest for a goddamn change.
Greatest Misses - Def Jam 1992.
Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age - Def Jam
See, the guys are trying to create a more gospelly party atmosphere by bringing in lots of outside voices and putting the emphasis on melody instead of noise. When it works, it's a wonderful experience that brings a feeling of joy to the pit of your stomach similar to that you get when you put on Exile On Main Street; when it doesn't (which is over a quarter of the time, unfortunately), it's about the worst rap music you can possibly imagine - stupid lyrics, wheezy old man vocals, and irritatingly cliched music ("What Side You On?," "What Kind Of Power We Got?," "I Ain't Mad At All," - yuck!!!!). Regardless, if you just use your little "skip" button on the ol' CD player, you can still have a terrific time with the record. "Thin Line Between Law & Rape" is killer, as is the silly "hard-rockin'" "Aintnuttin Buttersong," for some reason. Give it a whirl. What the hell? It got terrible reviews, but it does have its moments. I promise.
He Got Game - Def Jam 1998
So here's the straight “dope” from a young man who doesn't know decent hip hop from a stinky flip flop. This is a bunch of tunes inspired by (and presumably featured in) the Spike Lee “joint” He Got Game. The movie, as far as I can make out, has to do with a young man who plays basketball very well and is pressured by his father to do even better. That's what these songs seem to center around. So, I'll warn you right now -- there's not a lot of lyrical variety on this one; it’s pretty much the same theme over and over again.
Musically, the first half of the CD is populated by great little riffs and vocal hooks, with guest stars ranging from KRS-ONE and Masta Killa to (!!!) Stephen Stills! The second half of is dull, though. The songs sound just like the first six, but with even less going on. "Go Cat Go" is a great rap noise metal tune, but the others are extremely disappointing. So even a 7 grade might even be a bit high. They’re still crankin' out some great, groovin' tunes; I just wish they were as consistent as they used to be.
Let me tell you something about Prozac -- it makes you numb. In a good way, mind you! I'm not complaining! But it's weird. Everything just sorta drifts by, and nothing seems nearly as important as it used to. I just thought I'd let you know. Taken in this light, maybe you shouldn't pay any attention to this review. I could give a shit whether this CD is actually any good or not!
There's A Poison Goin On - Atomic Pop 1999.
Revolverlution - Slam Jamz 2002.
(A woman is visiting her Alzheimers-suffering mother in the hospital)
MOTHER: Hi honey! Did your father come with you today?
DAUGHTER: No! He's been dead for five years! Jesus, were you born yesterday or something?
MOTHER: No.... But you were!
Look, I know funnier jokes have been made, but come on! My SUBCONSCIOUS made it up! I think that kicks ass! In essence, that joke was written by NOBODY. I certainly didn't write it! But there it was, fully developed for me to share with the world upon awakening. I'd like to think that the Jewish God used me as his conduit to bring a bit of light humor to the world during these cold, post-terrorism times.
I saw this new Public Enemy CD a while back but heard somebody in the store say "Yeah, it's just some remix thing," so I avoided it. It's hard to avoid a $5 bootleg being sold on the sidewalk though, so I gave it a good lookover when discovered in THAT context, and decided that I can no longer rely on the word of somebody because it's MUCH more than "just some remix thing." In fact, it features NINE NEW SONGS!!!!!!!!! That's 38 full minutes of all-new songs, which in an earlier era would be plenty for a full-length album. And they're damn good new songs too! I'd give that 38 minutes a full AIGHT (8), thanks to the great beat of the electric guitar-sampling title track, Flavor Flav's classic catchy funky "Can A Woman Make A Man Lose His Mind?" (answer: "Damn right 'cuz it happens all the time!"), the bass/piano/sax corporate attack "54321...Boom," Chuck's 9/11 response"Get Your Shit Together" (focusing on CIA lies and the military's response to the terrorist attack -- and featuring the applaudable self-referential line "I guess 911 ain't no joke"), the neat echoey piano chiming/alarm clock beeping of "Now A'Daze" (sung by --- god, who the hell sings this one? Is that Eddie Vedder? No, couldn't be Eddie Vedder, he's gay and hates black people. K.D. Lang maybe?) and my FAVORITE OF ALL, the slow Sabbathesque metallic chugger "Son Of A Bush," whose chorus features Chuck and Flav exchanging the phrase "He's the son of a BAAAAAAD MAN!" Unfortunately this track was written long before 9/11 happened (it was actually written for Chuck's Confrontation Camp project, I'm pretty sure), so its sentiments aren't as intriguing as they would be if written recently.
So seriously - that's a lot of great new songs. They don't sound old or confused or tired or too empty - they're just good solid collections of noises, riffs, samples, bass lines and lyrics! But is that enough for the P.E.?
OOOOOOOOOOOOO! Therefore, they've also included (sings) FIVE RE-MIX-ES! .......Four spoken words, three live hits, two dum-de-doo and a Hummhumhumsomethin' Yeah Yeah!
You can find a studio recording of that hilarious song parody on my upcoming holiday release Mark Prindle "Sleighs" (Slays) The Works of Many "Gift"-ed Singers to Celebrate the "Presence" (Presents) Of the "Holidaze" (Holidays) -- Ahh! There's a "Missile" (Mistle) on my "Toe"!.
The remixes range from dark and smashing ("By The Time I Get To Arizona" - a song whose lyrics are too brilliant to be ruined even by a BAD remix, which this isn't -- it just takes out the gospel overtunes, leaving nothing but industrial anger) to hilariously misguided (The "Jeronimo Punx Redu" of "Public Enemy No. 1" is ecstasy-house thump-thump-thump with Chuck rapping anachronistically over it!!!!!!! So Funny, It's Bad!!!!!!). The live tunes are what they are, with goodness being good and mediocrity repeating itself but with a crowd. And the spoken things are short enough to not bug you too much -- there are two service announcements about celebrating black culture and staying off of drugs (featuring Flavor "Pardon Me Sir, Could You Please Pass The Crack?" Flav!?!?), as well as a neat post-Arizona concert interview with Mr. D (who I'm told took dancing lessons from Mick Jagger in 1973, interestingly enough) and the "Making of BURN HOLLYWOOD BURN," in which Flavor "The Only Good Thing About Crackers Is Their First Five Letters" Flav repeatedly "CRACKS" himself up trying to record that phone call you hear during that song about going to see a movie.
In finale, this is worth buying! It's got some bad ideas here and there (for example, the weakest new track on here is "Gotta Give The Peeps What They Need" ---- so they were kind enough to include a REMIX of it at the end of the CD!!!!!!), but if you don't buy it, not only will you miss out on the ear-splintering mic feedback that permeates the "B-Side Wins Again" remix, but you will also lose your job and reputation as a result of me publicly labelling you a racist on live international TV! (It IS legal to just make crap up about people, isn't it? Like the police do?)
Favorite line on the album -- from "Son Of A Bush" -- "The Father! The Son! And the Holy Shit!"
Person A: I spoke to your mum last night.
Person B: But she's been dead for five years!
Person A: I didn't say she spoke to me.
It Takes A Nation: The First London Invasion Tour 1987 DVD - Music Video Distributors 2005
Q: What did the British man say when he sat on a knitting needle?
A: "Bleedin' bollocks!"
I don't usually tell jokes in today's world of pain and the ozone layer but this Public Enemy DVD is hilarious. Have you ever heard of 1987? It was the year that Rap's famed Public Enemy, then featuring Chuck D, Flavor-Flav, Terminator X, Professor Griff and a bunch of guys in military uniforms, stormed Europe's famed Britain, unleashing their post-Malcolm X/sub-Black Panther schtick to a whole Barmy Army of white chaps and chippies. Perhaps you've heard It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back and its many live-concert snippets? THEY WERE ALL PULLED FROM THIS BRAND NEW DVD!!!! I realize that this negates all formerly held notions of time and order, but if it weren't for scientific discoveries of this sort, we'd still be praying to ridiculous "all-knowing Gods" with the "power" to "torment disbelievers for all of eternity". HA AHAHAH !!!AHH AHH HHAHAHAHAHAH YOU STUPID PAST SOCIETIES LONG GONE!!!
This material was recorded live on November 1-3, 1987 at Motorhead's famed Hammersmith Odeon in London. But don't think you're getting nuthin' but a live show because this disc is much MUCH more than just that. It also features an ass-whooping of behind-the-scenes footage and interview snippets, including the strange claim that the S1W exists to "hold classes and seminars." (?) These guys REALLY wanted to be taken seriously as political activist leaders of the new age, which is fine except for the fact that they hardly had any political material AT ALL at this point in their career! I mean, there's like TWO serious songs on Yo! Bum Rush The Show; the rest are about Chuck's car and rapping skills and bullsense. That's why it's so bizarre to sit through a braggart tune like "Miuzi Weighs A Ton" and then watch Chuck talk about how he likes Britain because they really listen to WHAT HE'S SAYING and grasp the importance of his WORDS. "Suckaz to the side, I know ya hate my '98!" Revolutionary words indeed.
Another entirely oddball thing is something of which I had no idea -- did you know that in concert, Public Enemy simply rap over their records? So you hear the voices coming out of their mouths and the voices on the record at the same time? Which means that there is absolutely no opportunity for any in-concert spontaneity? Which suggests that the concept of mixing down instrumental versions of their albums specifically for live use DIDN'T EVEN FUCKING OCCUR TO THEM!??!?!?!? I would gladly put this down to youthful ignorance and poor planning except that the disc also includes a live version of "She Watch Channel Zero" from 2003 and they were doing the same thing even then (as sadly showcased by a tired, aged, post-junkie Flavor Flav calmly intoning his spoken segments as the voice of a hyperactive high-pitched young Flavor Flav recites the same exact words in the background). And they didn't even try to hide it! One of the behind-the-scenes pieces shows Flavor Flav trying to remember what "aside" he is supposed to say after some verse in some song: you should see how nervous he makes everybody when he threatens to "improvise"!
For all of these reasons, this DVD is an absolute hoot of enjoyabilityment. They were young as hell, still figuring out what they were trying to do (Even Chuck D was still wearing a big clock around his neck at this point! Not just Flavor Flavor, but CHUCK D! A big dumb clock!!! And not on his wall, but around his NECK!!! Clocks don't go there!!!!! Am I the only normal one???), and it's a total gas (fart) finally being able to put visuals to classic ITANOMTHUB audials like "Bring that beat back! Bring the beat back!" and "If y'all really like to rock the funky beats, somebody in the house say 'Hell yeah!'" Bonus features include a newly-recorded commentary track by Mr. D, rare photos, two live tracks from 2003 (aforementioned "She Watch Channel Zero" and a full-band (!) performance of.... hmm. "Can't Truss It"? "Nightrain?" Something like that), and a bonus audio CD featuring the entire concert and a bunch of PE remixes by DJ Spooky, DJ Lord, DJ Johnny Juice, DJ Bonebrake, BJ Thomas, CJ Ramone and JD Considine.
I don't often tell people to buy DVDs, so don't buy this one, but it's a MUST-OWN for fans of classic Public Enemy so buy the FUCK out of this one! Hell, STEAL it if you have to! But steal it in such a way that Music Video Distributors receive money for it. Those people work hard and don't need pricks like you stealing medicine from their sick babies' mouths.
Rebirth Of A Nation (Featuring Paris) - Guerrilla Funk 2005
The main big deal difference on this latest release is that it was produced by 37-year-old Oscar Jackson, Jr., who also contributes lead vocals to a number of tracks. On the production side, he's....mmm... I hesitate to... He's okay, I guess. But only intermittently clever. For one thing, he's FAR too into the 'repeat the last few words of each line' production gimmick, so there's 5 or 6 songs on here that go like, "I was taking a crap in the toilet bowl - toilet bowl/When what should I squeeze out but Nat King Cole - Nat King Cole/Apparently I'd eaten his corpse at (etc)" He's also very much (apparently) into the 'background melody' thing, as opposed to the classic old 'Bomb Squad' noise aesthetic. Most of the background melodies on here (generally created by bass and synth - or perhaps via samples of some sort) are simple and quite dark. At their best, they revolve around odd chord changes and do a good job of painting a dark, tortured backdrop for Carlton and Oscar's raps of upsettedness; at their worst, they make Public Enemy sound as overwrought and TV show-dramatic as Eminem or Coolio. He then piles on lots of old school turntable scratching and the occasional sample from a television news program, and voila! Your dinner's ready.
On the rapping side, however, it's a different situation. Oscar Jackson, Jr., especially compared to big gruff Carlton Ridenhour and funny, crackheaded William Drayton, simply has a nondescript voice. It's not BAD, but it doesn't have anything really exciting or notable about it. Just sounds like a guy rapping. You ever heard one? Sounds like a bunch of rhyming words, doesn't it? That's one reason I find it difficult to take rap as seriously as your average African-American or Irish-American person. Everything fucking RHYMES! And with a language as limited as English, the only way to make everything rhyme is to use words that don't necessarily say exactly what you want to say. This is no big whoopee if you're just singing a meaningless love song or doing a wacky Will Smith comedy rap, but if you intend to be taken seriously as a sociopolitical commentator, you've GOT to get out of this trap of having to use the word, say, "strife" because the previous line ended in "life." How seriously would people have taken Abraham Lincoln if the Gettysburg Address had gone "Four score and seven years ago/Our fathers brought forth on this continent, ho/A new nation, conceived in Liberty/And dedicated to the proposition, O.G./That all men are created equal/Now listen up bitch, 'cuz there ain't no sequel/Free beard rides for all the ladies in the (etc)" If you somehow are able to say what you want to say and still have every line rhyme, bully for you. But I bet you're lying!
And if you aren't, I'll be crying!
So remember, if you hear me sighing -
It's because my soul is dying!
But Oscar Jackson Jr. isn't the ONLY new and/or old face to show up on Rebirth Of A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, even though you foolishly thought this was the case. P.E. veterans Richard Griffin and Sister Souljah are both back for a couple of tracks, and - if William Drayton's shout-outs are to be trusted - 39-year-old Norman Lee Rogers is swizzlin' the old swizzle-swoos on a few numbers as well. On the 'new people - who the hell are these people?' tip, you'll col' medina all up NWA's 36-year-old Lorenzo Patterson, along with younger political silly gooses calling themselves DEAD PREZ (Sticman and M-1), KAM, IMMORTAL TECHNIQUE, and the CONSCIOUS DAUGHTERS (Carla Green and Karryl Smith). I think it's neat how rap people make up funny names for themselves and I'm all for it. Wouldn't it be neat if rock stars did the same thing? Can you imagine Michael Stipe going by the pseudonym "Stipman-1"? Or "Sting" calling himself "DJ Sting"?
Subject matter includes the War On Terror, women who get plastic surgery, and the fact that they call Flavor Flav "Flavor." I could go into additional detail about individual songs (e.g. the funny "Uh" delivery in "Coinsequences," the excitingly super-developed flute/horn/all kinds of crap Xlr8r remix of "Field Nigga Boogie," the godawfulness of "Raw Shit," "Rebirth Of A Nation" and "Make It Hardcore"), but Hurricane Katrina just turned the entire United States upside down and we're now all facing the core of the Earth. Hey! That red guy with the pitchfork! Is that Satan!?
Oh no, I'm sorry. It's just a sunkissed farmer. Smoochy smoochy!
New Whirl Odor - SLAMjamz 2005
How You Sell Soul To A Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul? - ANOTHER new Public Enemy album, due out in Summer 2006
Power to the People and the Beats - greatest hits comp
Soul Of A Nation - reissue of It Takes A Nation LP, with an ENTIRE DISC of bonus material
Afraid Of The Dark - reissue of Fear of a Black Planet LP, with an ENTIRE DISC of bonus material
Flavor Flav's "Greatest Flavors of All Time" LP
Beats and Places - live, remixed and new songs
World Tour Sessions - The Best of Public Enemy Live
Bring That Beat Back - Remixes of PE songs
Public Enemy Number One - 5-disc box set.
All this plus five different DVD's -- ALL OUT BY SPRING 2007!!!
I don't mean to be rude here but (a) nobody gives a shit about Public Enemy anymore, (b) a band that hasn't released a single consistent album in the last 14 years is likely not going to have much success creating three at the same time, and (c) "New Whirl Odor"? As in "New World Order," a term coined by the former President Bush in like 1989? That's the way to show the world you're up on current events. Why not make a few Rutherford B. Hayes jokes while you're at it?
I for one am a little confused about 'The Bomb Squad.' Could somebody help me out with this? 'The Bomb Squad' was apparently responsible for the sound of PE's best records -- but at what point did they jump ship? Oor are they still onboard but just not any good anymore? Apparently Terminator X left the band shortly after There's A Poison Goin' On but I didn't even realize that until yesterday. Also, Professor Griff has been back for a while. See what happens when you only buy cheap bootleg copies and promos of Public Enemy CDs? You fall out of the loop and into the frying pan!
The problem with this CD is simple: it's boring. Aside from a handful of terrific songs, the CD is an endless stream of sluggish tepid beats, bland or nonexistent hooks, and lackadaisical speak-rapping. All this and not a SINGLE Flavor Flav song. Not ONE! Even Professor Griff takes a lead vocal or two, but the only sign of Flav is a bit of forced background spirit and a freestyle rap recorded two decades earlier. Chuck attemptes to give the disc a feeling of diversity by using a bunch of different producers, DJs, guest rappers, collaborative artists and even some live musicians, but almost none of these people (including Chuck himself at this point, it appears) are talented enough to create the sort of instantly memorable, 'must-dance-and-shake-fist' hardcore hip-hop that this band pioneered several thousand days ago. I expect to be bored by most rap artists because I'm not a huge fan of the genre; however, this is the first time I've ever fallen fast asleep to a Public Enemy album. It's a good thing I wasn't piloting a passenger jet at the time! Or any time, to be fair. The only "Wings" I've earned have Paul McCartney in them!!!! (?)
You know what rumor kicks ass? The one that says the 9/11 terrorists went to a flying school in Florida and told the instructor that they wanted to learn how to fly a plane but didn't need to learn how to land. That is so awesomely dopey! NOTE TO LIARS: Take five or ten seconds to think about the machinations of your lie before you spread it around. If the terrorists' plan was to go to a flight school to learn how to fly but not land, how exactly were they planning to exit the school's plane after learning how to fly it? Or was their original idea to fly their little learning plane all the way to New York and bounce it off a Trade Center window?
The CD is not a total waste though, as it includes a few tracks that sound unlike anything else they've ever done, which I find to be a progressive, forward-looking phenomenon. "What A Fool Believes" pairs Chuck with a turgid stop-start heavy metal trudge, forcing him to rap over both silence and double-kick-drum grindnoise - and it only gets weirder when the slow gospel chorus comes around. "As Long As The People Got Something To Say" is even noisier and more offputting than the groundbreaking Nation Of Millions stuff, cruising along on an unpleasant drone and high-pitched beeping horns. But in a GOOD way! "Y'all Don't Know" is another bizarre one, with Griff intoning over a single fuzzy chord, high ringing sounds, calamitous garbage truck noises and sick keyboard breaks that sound more like the Heroine Sheiks than hip-hop. The final 'WTF!?'-er is the very first Public Enemy EPIC: the 12-minute "Superman's Black In The Building," a wonderfully catchy and upbeat multi-part piece driven by a rock guitar sample that is pitch-manipulated and cut up in a few different ways to create 'changes.' The last few minutes are a bit extraneous, but up until that point it's one of the album's most exuberating songs.
Unfortunately, the rest of the CD can shove it up the ass of love. Decent downbeat bass lines are repeated until you hate them, old-school synth brapps bore their way into the nuisance centers of your brain, and endless references to the band's glorious past (snippets from earlier records, rehashed sample collages, tracks called "66.6 Strikes Again" and "Bring That Beat Back") make the whole project reek of nostalgia rather than relevance. The only song that actually manages to sound like classic Bomb Squad Public Enemy is (strangely) a collaboration with tea restauranteur Moby, who recreates the band's original dissonance through siren noises, cymbal crash hiss and funky little keyboard licks hidden in the back.
So that's FIVE good songs! Pair that with an intro by the Reverend Al Sharpton (???) and liner notes that finally admit that most blacks consider Public Enemy "nothing more than a White American's 'radical chic' fix," and you've got almost enough to warrant picking up a copy for yourself. Only if you're a huge fan who has all their other records though. Because it STINKS!
I've been to Moby's Tea Restaurant several times, by the way. I can't stand tea, but they also serve these tasty fruit drink thingies in all kinds of weird flavors - seltzer + milk + flavor or somesuch. They have a lot of tasty desserts too. Not a bad place at all! Thank you Moby, for the restaurant.
Beats And Places - SLAMjamz 2005
The correct phrasing is "Public Enemy isn't any good anymore."
If I had a dictaphone for every time Public Enemy put out an extraneous release, I would now own probably five dictaphones. And their latest release (at the time it came out), a collection of unreleased and unrequested material from the past few years, does nothing to alter the current perception of the band as a mediocre shell of its former shellfish.
A full TWO tracks on here remind me of the P.E. I used to love. Yes, P.E. was a wonderful class - running, skipping, staring at each other's blossoming bosomy bodies in the locke
The two tracks that remind me of classic Public Enemy are "Who's Your Hero," an indictment of hip hop artists who go where the money is even if it means writing ignorant and dangerous gangsta rap, and "Hell No, We Ain't Allright," an excellent Hurricane Katrina commentary featuring samples from a New Orleans phone caller and a dark keyboard melody that for once sounds appropriate instead of overdramatic. The rest of the album reminds me of classic Really Bad Rap Band. Remember those guys? RBRB? Dude, they were the piss boner.
I read lots of books about horror and exploitation movies, and many of the writer/critics parrot the belief that "bad films can be great; the worst thing a film can be is boring." I know it's crazy to take a comment about film and then try to somehow make it apply to an entirely different form of entertainment (film is art for the eyes and ears, music is sports for the lower back), but I will do so here. If this album were hilariously embarrassing like Dee Dee Ramone's Standing In The Spotlight, that wouldn't be so bad. But it's not; it's just long and boring, filled with tedious, forgettable songs that repeat two parts over and over for four or five excruciating minutes. Even most of the lyrics are a bore; how many times can a person say "It is what it is so therefore it is like it is" before realizing that it DOESN'T MEAN ANYTHING!? Evidently hundreds.
Honestly, there is one other song that I enjoy quite a bit, and for quite a telling reason. It's not that "Vidiot" is necessarily a catchier or smarter song than those surrounding it; it's just, at 1:21, a much shorter one. Short enough to not get tiresome. A bit more thoughtful brevity could have done wonders for this record, with the minimalist keyboard and bass lines sticking around only long enough to spice and entice, rather than pounding their simplicity into the core of your brain for 240 endless seconds. The recurring 'scratching' solos don't help either, with "vooka-vooka-vooka" revealing itself as not a terribly dynamic noise.
In one of my Ministry reviews, I compare that band to Public Enemy in that both outfits seem determined to release 5,000 inferior products a year just for the money. And sure, some people laughed at this ridiculous comparison. Oh, how they laughed and laughed. But NOBODY laughed when they heard this album's "Grand Theft Oil," a 'hilarious' and 'witty' collection of George Bush quotes edited together to say things that he wouldn't really say, like "Everyone can now doubt the word of America." And the reason nobody laughed is not because the song isn't funny, but because this gimmick was recognized as the exact same one that Ministry has used in every song on their last three albums. Also, nobody laughed because the song isn't funny. But that's secondary to the first reason nobody laughed.
Old school beats, negligible snippets of musical peeps and toots, the occasional soul lick or dumb rock riff ("All Aboard The New Nightrain" may seem like a fun electro-rocker at first, but boy it gets hokey over the long haul) -- these elements aren't enough to save anything, let alone a person drowning. And they certainly aren't enough to save this album from the Sleepytime Lullabye Cabinet. If your baby won't shut its ass, play it "The Flavor Flav Show" or "If I Gave You Soul (What Would You Do With It?)"; I guarantee that he/she'll be either asleep or dead in under three minutes.
Either way, no more crying and we all win!
Unless your baby is a puppy, of course. In that case, cherish it and love it because puppies don't grow up to be ungrateful autistic druggies with Muscular Dystrophy like real babies do.
How You Sell Soul To A Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul??? - SLAMjamz 2007
Actually, that would make a good follow-up to New Whirl Odor. Get Mr. D on the phone post-haste!
I'm reading Horror Movies Of The 1980's by John Kenneth Muir right now. It's a great book and I'm enjoying the dick out of it, but one thing about his writing style is really grating on my nerves -- he keeps starting sentences with the phrase "To wit". Has anybody actually ever said "To wit" out loud? What is it even supposed to mean? Presumably it's like "In other words" or "For example," but why is it phrased "To wit"!? Is it short for "To witness"? Honestly it just sounds like Muir read it in a review somewhere and internalized the idea that he isn't a true critic unless he uses it 700 pages in a row. More like "To SHIT" if you ask me!!!!!
I realize that at this late date in Hip-Hop History, it's not enough to just rap over a single recurring noise like Chuck and Flavor did in the early days, but the problem with Public Enemy trying to be more 'musical' is that they're not songwriters. Or more accurately, they're lousy songwriters. Somebody who was once involved with the band (The Bomb Squad? Hank Shocklee? Terminator X? You tell me!) had great talent for putting together beats, noises and tiny music samples in a compelling, powerful and even hooky way. But that person is gone, and now they just have producer Gary G-Wiz and The baNNed, neither of whom seem to have any clue how to come up with a memorable backdrop for Chuck's still-formidable voice and presentation.
To wit, far too many of the songs adopt an overdramatic minor-key Coolio-style SERIOUS approach that makes this pioneering underground outfit sound like a 6th-generation rip-off of late-'90s MTV Hip-Hop. To wit, "Amerikan Gangster," "The Enemy Battle Hymn Of The Public," a rotten rearrangement of PF Sloan's "Eve Of Destruction," and the absolutely horrid Eminem-soundalike "Sex, Drugs & Violence" all stink in this very way. Actually, Flav's "Bridge Of Pain" also falls into this category, but its cocktail organ and xylophone tones are strangely effective where the others are not (maybe because the xylophone adds a bit of cartoonish whimsy to the otherwise grim track?) At any rate, here's to wit! (*clinks martini glass against yours*)
Sadly, the backing tracks that don't fall into the over-earnest category are mostly bummers too, whether channeling '60s-'70s funk ("Harder Than You Think," "Escapism"), rockin' out Body Count-style ("Long And Whining Road," "Frankenstar"), giving song titles to boring dialogue snippets rendered meaningless by their lack of context ("Between Hard And A Rock Place," "Radiation Of A RADIOTVMOVIE Nation"), or completely ripping off other rap artists ("Col-Leepin" = Beastie Boys' "Brass Monkey"; "See Something, Say Something" = NWA's "Express Yourself").
Honestly, the only ones that work are those that dump the musical pre-text and just try to sound like old-school Hip-Hop. Yes, the title track and "Can You Hear Me Now" sound stilted and dated, but they're also warpedly catchy in their stripped-down fumpf-fumpf-fumpfness. And yes, "Flavor Man" and "Head Wide Shut" are just audio collages harkening back to PE's early '90s glory days, but they also capture the exact sound that got me interested in this band in the first place. And yes, "Black Is Back" sounds exactly like early Run-DMC, but it's supposed to! Interestingly, they'd originally intended the track to sample "Back In Black," but AC/DC's lawyers thankfully put the kibbutz on that kibbosh. Why it didn't occur to Chuck to approach Los Bravos' legal representation is beyond me. There will never, ever be a suitable answer to that question.
On the issue of issues, here's something else unbelievable: the three Flavor Flav tracks on here were pulled directly off of his solo CD!!! I mean, they're the exact same versions that most Public Enemy fans have already owned for over a year! What a bunch of ADDHOLES!
Actually I meant to type "assholes" there, but I hit the wrong key. Still, I stand by my accidental conclusion that Public Enemy suffers from attention deficit disorder. What a bunch of DEBILITATINGADDICTIONTOCRACKCOCAINEHOLES!
Sorry, hands got all bouncy for a second.