For better or worse, ‘Shut Up, Dude’ is a new hip-hop, at ease with race, gender, humor, and self-deprecation.
THE STREETS ON FIRE This Is Fancy (The Currency Exchange)
Call it scuzz rock, call it garage noise, call it face-drunk postpunk, call it whatever the hell you want, but play this album loud enough to rankle your neighbors and scare your cat into the closet. (Better yet, use headphones indoors and spare your kitty a trip to the pet shrink. But to hell with your neighbors. Put the speakers outside.) Deafening rock bedlam reigns supreme on this 11-track toolshed of snarling guitars drenched in reverb, distortion, and feedback; staccato percussion; throbbing Joy Division bass lines; and incoherent screaming vocals. The whole shebang sweats buckets of retro-analog fancy. Chicago band The Streets on Fire dips its toes into everything from psychedelica to goth and avant-rock on this debut full-length, and it also manages to pull a few modern-pop rabbits out of its expansive stylistic top hat. “Hello, From Eastern Europe” is a song The Cure’s Robert Smith forgot to write while recording Disintegration, and “That’s Hard to Find” will have you searching for your copy of The Clash’s “London Calling” single in no time. Lead-off track “No One’s @&%*ing to the Radio,” a single that should be heard on the radio but never will, sets the stage for 33.5 minutes of danceable — if a bit self-indulgent — anger-management therapy. While listening, please ask permission before punching holes in walls that don’t belong to you. — Rob DeWalt
DISkJOkkE En Fin Tid (Smalltown Supersound)
Joachim Dyrdahl (aka diskJokke) makes electronic music for people who don’t often listen to electronic music. That is to say, he takes elements that laymen closely associate with dance music (the disco-house beats and the crescendos and releases) and uses these tools to paint an ever-evolving, highly accessible mural. The opening track, “Reset and Begin,” eases listeners’ toes into the water with some Vangelis-esque sci-fi and a bass throb. He tosses percussion — computerized shakers, real-life congas, hi-hats, what sounds like liquid castanets — into the mix, almost as a garnish. It isn’t until track two, “En Fin Tid,” that he breaks out the Giorgio Moroder influence, turns off the “no dancing” light, and takes flight. For the next 50-some minutes, hardly 10 seconds pass without an inviting bass line or lively rhythm. Dyrdahl is an expert at removing elements from a dense composition and rendering it briefly minimalist before building it back up to a glorious climax. The Norwegian producer’s academic background includes mathematics and classical violin, and he has developed a mechanical approach and melodic style that seemingly draws from both of these course studies. Nowhere is this more evident than on “Rosenrød,” eight minutes of funk that coyly tease as much pure joy as possible from a handful of retro-synth notes. In 1980, this is what we thought the future might sound like. Apparently, the future is here.
— Robert B. Ker
Ten (Blue Note)
When I saw Jenny Scheinman’s quartet at the Village Vanguard in the fall of 2008, the violinist was something to witness, but her pianist, Jason Moran, was equally compelling. You can hear him on Scheinman’s Crossing the Field and on recent albums by Cassandra Wilson, Charles Lloyd, and Paul Motian, but Ten is the pianist’s first CD as a leader in nearly four years. The recording marks the 10th anniversary of his Bandwagon trio, with Tarus Mateen on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums. First up is “Blue Blocks,” one of seven Moran compositions on the disc. It possesses somewhat of an old-fashioned, celebratory character, with some tremendously enthusiastic piano playing and lots of brashy cymbals in the middle part. “RFK in the Land of Apartheid” has a jazzy, marching cadence, which Mateen sets up with an angular, 11-note repeating figure. Thelonious Monk’s “Crepuscule With Nellie” is a very cool trio piece with an even quirkier rhythm than Monk exhibited on his 1963 Criss-Cross album. Here’s a zinger: “Study No. 6” by the late player-piano composer Conlon Nancarrow. Waits and Mateen create a dense jungle sound screen for some beautifully dissonant, wild playing by Moran. The remaining seven songs are sometimes staid but more often lively, complex, and thunderous. Overall, this is fairly marvelous modern music. — Paul Weideman
DaS RaCIST Shut Up, Dude
(Greedhead/Mishka) The very name of rap duo/novelty act Das Racist is a tongue-in-cheek homage to the multiracial upbringings of hip-hop dadaists and profound satirists Himanshu Suri and Victor Vazquez. Most know them as the pair behind “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell,” a ridiculous, infectious ’ 80s rap homage to the chain restaurants that haunt our low-cost food landscape. The lyrics of that tune consist entirely of “I’m at the Pizza Hut / I’m at the Taco Bell / I’m at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.” Yet on their first album, released as a free download, they prove themselves to be far more than fast-food skit rappers. Sonically, the record revels in the crude and delightful blips, squeaks, and breaks of early electro-rap. Lyrically, the band both skewers and celebrates urban rap culture. “Fake Patois” is a gritty dance-hall track that pokes funs at every singer who dared to adopt a fake Jamaican accent, from KRS-One to Jay-Z. The comic highlight here is “Shorty Said,” a dance track that juggles urban ethnicity and the timeworn practice of flirting through celebrity comparisons, with lines like “Shorty said I look like a chubby Jake Gyllenhaal/I said this is
Brokeback, and I’m a broke mack/I’m so hard, I’m typing on a broke Mac.” For better or worse, this is a new hip-hop, at ease with race, gender, humor, and self-deprecation. — Casey Sanchez