Thursday, May 29, 2008

Donut Call List!

Tonight is the season 4 finale for LOST. I'm going to pick up indian food and get my nerd on. Who is in the coffin?!? (rhetorical question. no spoilers!)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ocular Optometrical - Lists 4 The Win

Cue The Film - Top 5 Films With A Non-Condescending Portrayal Of A Child's Perspective
This list was my own top-5 topic inspired by listening to the latest Cue The Film podcast which featured reviews of "Son Of Rambow" & "Millons." I thought it was a great pairing of films and both movies do indeed feature young protagonists that act like children but aren't catered to or treated as props like most hollywood films are want to do.

Millions (2004)/ Bacheha-Ye aseman [Children Of Heaven] (1997)/ Mitt liv som hund [My Life As A Dog] (1985)/ 28 Weeks Later (2007)/ George Washington (2000)/ Whale Rider (2002)/ Die Blechtrommel [The Tin Drum] (1979)/ El Espíritu de la colmena [Spirit Of The Beehive] (1973)/ 800 balas [800 Bullets] (2002)/ Rocket Gibraltar (1988)/ Ma vie en rose (1997)/ Leolo (1992)/ Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987)/ Ratcatcher (1999)/ Fanny och Alexander [Fanny & Alexander] (1982)/ Walkabout (1971)

05 - The Secret of Roan Inish (1994)
- John Sayles is one of my favorite filmmakers. A big part of that is that he's also a writer, and i always appreciate a wholistic vision for a film. Based on the book by Rosalie K. Fry, Sayles' adaptation is beautifully understated and really captures the magic of the folk tales without having to resort to any big special effects. Watching this movie prompted me to write a letter to my grandmother because it left me with the same feeling I had when she read with me when i was a child.

04 - Salaam Bombay! (1988)
- This one is a heartbreaking story of a 10 year old boy growing up in a brothel in India. It doesn't pull any punches.

03 - Kids (1995)
Larry Clark is a weird one. I like his films, mainly because I do think that he shows a pretty accurate depiction of teenagers. There is a scene in Kids where a bunch of boys are hanging out in an apartment, cracking on eachother, talking about girls and watching the Blind: Video Days skateboarding video. It was an eerily accurate slice of my highschool days. Larry Clark does have a pervy streak and a penchant to show young looking actors in sexually explicit scenes but there's also a tendency of society to pretend that teenagers aren't completely obsessed with sex & morally chaotic.

02 - Cidade dos Homens [City Of Men] (2002)
A brilliant TV series set in the Brazilian favelas. This unfairly gets written off as a retread of the equally brilliant movie Cidade de Deus [City Of God], but it focuses on a pair of younger protagonists and over the course of the dense series, the expanded running time allows them to cover a wider range of stories as they truly grow up in front of the camera. Outside of the Wire, this is one of the best produced & most complex TV programs I've seen.

01 - Les Quatre cents coups [400 Blows] (1959)
- The first film for François Truffaut's legendary character, Antoine Doinel. Every good movie about adolesence, including a bunch in my honorable mentions, are riffs on this movie. Classic writing, directing & acting.

Filmspotting - Top 5 Characters In Need Of A Comeback
When approaching this topic, there were a ton of characters that I would plunk down change to see on the screen again, but really most good films preclude sequels, so I tried to use only characters that seemed to still have room for interesting stories.

05 - Halloweentown (The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993))
- One of my all time favorite films, Tim Burton & Henry Selick's Halloweentown was beautifully realized & full of fun characters & history to explore. I haven't played any of the video games set in Halloweentown, but based on reviews, my impression is that a lot of the secondary properties around The Nightmare Before Christmas have been shoddily slapped together to cash in on the cult fanbase. I hope Burton & Selick eventually revisit together.

04 - Lone Wolf & Cub (Shogun Assassin (1980))
- I'm sorry but I just cannot get beyond the fact that the Ogami Itto of the films & TV series had a double chin. The actor is great otherwise, & apparently a legend, but the ascetic Ogami Itto of the comics would never allow himself the indulgence of putting on a few pounds. Lone Wolf & Cub is my favorite comic book ever and it was hugely influential. You like Wolverine? Batman? Daredevil? Frank Miller basically just transposed Lone Wolf's personality onto the characters and it's stuck ever since. A modern production of Lone Wolf & Cub would be amazing, and I think an audience tiring of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon rip-offs would eat up the epic story of the Shogun's executioner.

03 - Steve Zissou (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004))
- It would be impossible to cast another actor as a younger Steve Zissou after Bill Murray put his stamp on the character, but I would love to see more of Team Zissou's adventures.

02 - Sun-Ra (Space Is The Place (1974))
- We'll have to wait until Sun-Ra decides to return from the cosmos, but when he does I hope he hits us with another wonderful battle royale with the devil.

01 - Perseus (Clash Of The Titans (1981))
- I think there is actually a remake of Clash Of The Titans in production, but Greek mythology is so rich & full of stories, there's plenty of new material to mine. Maybe the reason the spate of recent Hollywood fantasy films aren't succeeding is that they all feature little kids in the hero role. 10 year olds can look up to Perseus, but its harder for Joe Sixpack to relate to Harry Potter.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Record Score! - It's Kind Of A Sickness

Collin Walcott "Cloud Dance" Lp (ECM)
- The core John Abercrombie trio with Dave Holland & Jack Dejohnette with Collin Walcott's sitars & tablas upfront. More glorious new age hippy-jazz from ECM.

tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE "Mechanically Repetitive/ReRecorded Records Record" Lp (Dear Skull)
- Pittsburgh based noise artist & familiar face around town. This collects some of his previous sound experiments, including one with a young Selecta adding his turntablism to the mix. The Lp comes with a superfluous off-center hole for the option of adding a bit of extra analog distortion through eliptical orbitting to the already outsound tape-loop collage, and the b-side has been cut twice so that the needle wanders between the two overlapping grooves almost haphazardly, and differently on each listen.

Annihilation Time "Cosmic Unconsciousness EP" 7" (Tankcrimes)
- Black Flag meets Black Sabbath in the endless adolescence of this southern California band.

Brother Jack McDuff "Tobacco Road" Lp (Atlantic)
- Jack McDuff is one of my favorite organists. He has a really delicate touch even on fairly poppy material like this album. This includes a really great cover of "The Shadow Of Your Smile"

Walter Bishop Jr. "Soul Village" Lp (Muse)
- OG copy of Bishop's late 70's soul-jazz classic. Bishop tears up the Fender Rhodes and makes the whole proceedings funky from top to bottom.

Return To Forever "Hymn Of The Seventh Galaxy" Lp (Polydor)
- Monster jazz-fusion album from 1973 featuring Chick Corea letting it all out.

Cannonball Adderley "Soul Of The Bible" 2xLp (Capitol)
- The Cannonball / Nat Adderley / David Axelrod collaboration, a very close cousin to the Zodiac albums complete with Rick Holmes' calm narration and the jazz-funk fusion.

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers "Child's Dance" Lp (Prestige)
- 1972 album from Blakey on Prestige featuring Woody Shaw and Stanley Clarke

Solomon Ilori & His Afro-Drum Ensemble "African High Life" Lp (Blue Note)
- A good Highlife album from the Nigerian talking-drum player and company, almost entirely percussion with bass by Abdul-Malik. An interesting release for Blue Note.

Snoop Dogg "Sensual Seduction" 12" (Geffen)
- When I first heard this track I hated it. It reminded me of the worst euro-pop vocoder bullshit and seemed like a calculated sell-out crossover cut from Snoop Dogg. It was that terrible Cher song meets Eiffel 65 meets the ugly 80's revival we're currently in. Somehow, seeing the video for this song completely changed my opinion. Seeing Snoop channel Rick James was inspirational and i fell in love with the sleazy yet positive message and the slinky melody.

Jackson Conti "Sujinho" 2xLp (Kindred Spirits)
- Full length album from Madlib & Mamao (percussionist for Azymuth). It actually lacks personality and just sort of flitters between pretty safe Latin grooves. I like latin music. I understand why a lot of American hip hop & soul artists are big fans of latin music, but that doesn't mean they can pull it off and there are far too many artists taking a stab at it. This isn't terrible, and in small doses it will definitely get your bug dancing, but over the long haul it's just forgetable.

The Heliocentrics "Distant Star" 12" (Now Again)
- This was a nice surprise. Well-sweated drummer Malcolm Catto leads a tight group of musicians through outer-universal soul-jazz grooves. The aptly named group actually comes close to performing what I would imagine Sun Ra would be up to in the post-hip hop landscape, a locked-in beat swinging with a psychedelic wash of bass, synths, horns... This single adds the rhyme talents of legends Percee P & MF Doom, who help sell the hip hop aesthetic even if they aren't really the most inspired appearances by the usually more stellar emcees. Percee P comes off like a hype man, mostly just blasting his name at the end of every few bars, and Doom really seems to have lost the fire he rekindled around the year 2000 and sounds like he's just tiredly reading from his book of rhymes. Luckily the vocals only occupy the A-Side and the flip is an extended slab of instrumental exploration.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Record Score! - The Summer Vibe Creeping In

Bongo Herman & Mudies All Stars "Car Pound Drifter / Nitty Gritty Drifter" 7" (HMA)
- My 2nd favorite dub album ever is "Harry Mudie Meets King Tubby In Dub Conference Vol. 1" (right behind Scientist "Rids The World Of The Evil Curse Of The Vampires"). While you can put yourself in the poor house just trying to keep up with all of the King Tubby releases, Harry Mudie is a more elusive artist. The Jamaican producer wasn't as prolific as Tubby or Coxsone, but most everything he touched was a quality affair, often on the funkier side of soulful reggae. Mudies All-Stars was more of a rotating roster of musicians that recorded at Studio One, but most often consisted of Bongo Herman, Tommy McCook, Bobby Ellis, Jo Jo Bennett, Mikey Chung, Lennie Hibbert & Gladstone Anderson. On this 7", the A-side features Bongo Herman going nuts on his namesake over the "Drifter" riddim, a favorite of Mudie's which he recorded numerous times. The flip is disappointingly similar, minus most of the bongos, but is still a rugged tune.

The Aggrovators & The Revolutionaries "Aggrovators Meets The Revolutionaries At Channel One Studios" Lp (Attack)
- Pretty nearly every member of the reggae studio band elite melding together in a super session of rubbery rhythms. Tommy McCook's saxophone gets the spotlight and really sings.

Infectious Organisms "The Balance" 12" (Oddity Plushc)
- Circa 2000 EP from a DC area hiphop crew on that Roots/Native Tongue/Digable Planets bohemian rap angle. It's got a nice, live production sound, similar to the early Roots albums, that has an open, spacious feel but avoids being repetitive. The other thing that really grabbed me was that it features a male mc & female mc trading off on the mic, and the woman has a very strong, commanding presence.

The Boris Gardiner Happening "Is What's Happening" Lp (Dynamic Sounds)
- Bassist Boris Gardiner is another stand out artist in the truly funky reggae arena. Also blessed with a golden voice, Gardiner started out in singing groups before becoming a percussionist & bassist at Studio One, going on to perform on a huge catalog of classic reggae albums as a member of The Upsetters, The Techniques & The Heptones and backing artists like The Congos, Cedric IM Brooks, Alton Ellis, Max Romeo, Burning Spear... With covers of "Ain't No Sunshine" & "Melting Pot", you can figure out the hard funk tone represented on "Is What's Happening." It's a great record that I've been listening to repeatedly despite the unfortunate cheap pressing littered with a bunch of micro-divots as you approach the center label.

Monty Alexander "We've Only Just Begun" Lp (BASF)
- Pianist Monty Alexander leads a powerful trio through a fairly conventional set but with his rhythm section of “Senator” Eugene Wright and Bobby Durham fully onboard, Alexander brings a hard, soulful swing to the proceedings. The stand out cut is definitely the Jamaican native's own composition, the funky reggae-influenced "Monticello."

Health//Disco "Perfect Skin" 7" (Suicide Squeeze)
- I was really into the LA noise-rock bands s/t album, with its heavy psych guitars and stop & start rhythms. On this 7" they break out a real slow, juggernaut of a track with a steady tribal hammering, and then on the flip Curses! remix the affair into a not-so shabby disco experiment. My ear is decidedly untrained in the arena of disco but with the help of my friend Tom (InfiniteStateMachine.Com) and seeing DJs like him and Rick Wilhite put it in the proper context I'm warming to it. I asked Tom's opinion on the Health's disco remix and he said he didn't hate it, so that counts for something.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Ocular Optometrical - Catsup

The Bank Job (2008)
- a fun heist film that follows all of the tropes of the genre, but the characters rise above the usual types, and the added scent of realism from the 'based on a true story' additions make it a solidly entertaining film. - 3.5/5
Iron Man (2008)
- This is an awesome 3/4 of a superhero film. Robert Downey Jr. owns the Tony Stark character, and the effects are beautifully realized with the proper degree of restraint. But as well handled as the origin story is, the big villain and final battle are completely punted, and the further i get away from the sugar rush of seeing Iron Man race military jets and blow-up tanks, the less satisfied I am. It's very worth seeing, but i just wish someone had stepped in to polish the 2 or 3 phoned-in pages that prevent this from being a perfect adaptation. - 3.5/5
The Devil Dared Me to (2007)
- New Zealand comedy about a man destined to be a stunt daredevil. It's got a lot of the violent sight gag humor that seems very indigenous to the kiwis and should be familiar to fans of Braindead (Dead-Alive) but it's very seldom laugh-out-loud funny, maybe dragged down by the sluggish plot & underdeveloped characters. It's a shame that the most entertaining section of the film is the Jackass-style collection of insane stunts that play behind the final credits. - 2.5/5
Crank (2006)
- It's an unapologetically male-fantasy-centric action film that asks you to check your brain at the door. It doesn't take it self seriously but also doesn't go cheap on the choreography. Empty calories but the sort that you're happy enough to spoil your dinner for. - 3/5
Zombie Strippers (2008)
- I should have learned my lesson by now that "zombies in a _blank_", no matter how entertaining that madlib looks, isn't enough to deliver an entertaining film, but I think i've been spoiled by just how wonderful all of the 70's euro zombie films are. Zombie Strippers has decent production values, cinematography and make-up FX but is more than happy to devolve into the T&A-driven student film you expected. - 1.5/5
Smokin' Aces (2006)
- A huge cast of actors lost in a frightening maze of tonal wrong-turns. After harvesting a cartoonish bunch of characters and laying out a juicy grindhouse plot, Smokin Aces proceeds to take itself entirely too seriously, asking us to emote with Hollywood cliches distraught that their schwarzeneggerian rampages ended in misfortune. As low as its ambitions, try as it might, Scorsese via Guy Ritchie this ain't. - 2/5
Fantastic 4 (2005)
- I never liked the comic characters and i'm over the age of 10, so i'm sure the producers didn't have me in mind when they made this. - 2/5
Into The Blue (2005) - 3/5
- It's that Jessica-Alba-in-a-bikini movie and it's surprisingly well made and kind of brutal in spots.
Dukes Of Hazard (2005)
- this film harnesses the hypnotic draw of a car wreck. - 1.5/5
Vampirella (1996)
- The original comics were drawn by some of the best artists working in the horror pulps but the stories were always dull and stupid, so, given a Roger Corman level of production value, this movie requires a fast-forward button. - 2/5
Taxi To The Darkside (2007)
- The USA has its collective head in the sand about the fact that we are kidnapping and torturing human beings on a frightening frequency. Taxi To The Darkside works hard, sometimes to its own detriment, to avoid inflating its claims and picking the juiciest examples. There's a good chance that its not even the film's fault that i'm not shocked by its claims and thus not as moved to outrage as i expected i'd be. There's a good chance that I have just been slowly assimilated into the culture of inhumanity and can't even recognize the extent of the damage that my way of life does on the world. ugh. - 4/5
Hannah Takes The Stairs (2007)
- Hannah Takes The Stairs is a part of the digital camera & digital distribution revolution that really opened up the medium of movies to new voices, especially those that are interested in small dramas about characters that had been underseen in Hollywood. Basically it elevated the film school set into the realm of making fully realized and widely seen movies. Written, directed by and starring a group of young adults, Hannah Takes The Stairs accurately depicts a class of Americans I'm very familiar with, the post-college crowd learning the ropes of the real world, figuring out the job vs creative spirit thing, and relationships vs sex. There are probably a lot of people that aren't interested in the problems of these middle class, white people, but i enjoyed the honesty and accuracy of the writing which i was able to relate closely with. I hope the digital revolution allows more people to create autobiographical narratives and represent their own stories with as much versmilitude. - 4/5
Rose Red (2002)
- A fun TV-movie about a bunch of psychics spending the night in a haunted-house, loosely based on the true life Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. The house is well realized with effective special EFX. Most of the problems stem from the movies' format with the extended run time forcing padded out subplots and the occassional recap of events for those just joining us, and the appeal to a general audience deflating most of the scares. I think my standards might be low on this one, but if it were shorter I think I would have really liked it. - 3/5
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly (2007)
- I honestly didn't think I was interested in the premise at all, but a lot of critical hype later, I found myself enjoying the depiction of a paralyzed man blinking out his memoirs.- 4/5
Mouth To Mouth (2005)
- An okay performance by Ellen Page and a mechanically well constructed script doesn't overcome my prejudice against the film's fetish for & cartoonish portrayal of the hobo-punk lifestyle. I never symphathized with any of the characters and never believed their situation. - 2/5
The Savages (2007) If you forgive some of the quirky background story for the two leads, you get a real, gutwrenching film about mortality and dignity. - 3/5
Last Days (2005)
- Every time i try to acknowledge that Nirvana wrote some pretty effective pop songs, I run up against the cult of Cobain that wants to pretend that it was the genius of the Seattle rock group and not a confluence of a shifting demographic focus and marketing that transformed the pop radio landscape. So, even though I'm a huge fan of Gus Van Sant's films, watching Michael Pitt wander around in a stupor, mumbling to himself, pretending to be a disaffected rock star, was even too much for me. If Cobain actually behaved as Van Sant portrays his surrogate then I may stop trying to appreciate Nirvana all together. - 2/5
The Orphanage (2007)
- A superbly crafted, atmospheric Turn Of The Screw type tale that immediately recalls The Others & The Devil's Backbone. If it wasn't for the unncessary final coda, I would have given this film a 5. Highly Recommended - 4.5/5
Wraiths Of Roanoke (2007)
- Growing up around "historic" Virginia, I was intrigued by the idea of marrying some of the moldy sites I was forced to tour as a grade-schooler with a little phantasmagoria but the 1st thing that comes on the screen when I hit play was "A Sci-Fi Channel original film," and tedious mediocrity followed. - 2/5
Anamorph (2007)
Apparently people are still trying to make 7even in 2007 and they're suckering good actors like Willem Dafoe & Clea Duvall into participating. A serial killer creates horrible tableaus using the bodies of his victims that recall the imagery of Francis Bacon and he's obsessed with Dafoes' solemn detective. Every crime scene is an invitation to the next until the killer's grand scheme is revealed, but like most of these films, nobody bothered coming up with an ending that really made sense or even managed to truly shock. Straight to video with a vengeance. - 2/5
Son Of Rambow (2007)
- I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was unfair in boiling down the plot of Son Of Rambow into a few kids remaking Rambo in my "most anticipated summer movies" list. The movie is more interesting than that. A highly creative but oppresively sheltered young boy befriends a loose cannon peer and together they create their own, imaginative film. Many of the characters are undercooked, leaving some of the subplots frustratingly unclear, but the central theme of the two boys' friendship never loses focus. The energy and sentimentality of the film conquers all. - 3.75/5

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Ocular Optometrical - Lists 3: Eye Of The Tiger Baum

Scene/Unseen - Topic: Comic Book/Superhero Movie
My Pick:

Creepshow (1982)
I'm obviously going for a less celebrated film on this one, and maybe I don't love Creepshow as much as Spiderman 2 or even American Splendor, but it's a really fun anthology horror film. Directed by George Romero and written by Stephen King, Creepshow totally nails the delicate balance of black humor, suspense and gruesome gore of the EC Comics that it is based on. Probably the strongest thing King ever wrote for film, he perfectly captures the weird morality plays that unfold in the pulp horror comics, down to the nearly ubiquitous theme of cheating spouses. Romero's direction doesn't hide the limited budget completely, but that and the slightly dated 80's quality just give the movie more charm.

There was a popular rumor going around town that most of the cockroaches around Carnegie Mellon University were in fact relatives of the swarm of cockroaches wrangled for the story parodying Howard Hughes and his germphobia, even though I think it was in fact "The Crate" segment that was filmed at CMU. I'm so proud that Romero is a diehard Pittsburgher.

Filmspotting - Topic: Top 5 Box Office Bombs That I Actually Liked

I culled my Top 5 & Honorable Mentions from this Wikipedia entry:
Yes, I'm disturbed that i'm citing a wikipedia entry, but really, I could care less about box office grosses so I just needed a source to play along with this week's picks.

Honorable Mentions:

The Black Hole (1979), Head (1968), Heathers (1989), The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000), Lolita (1997), Mars Attacks! (1996), Once Upon a Time in America (1984), Slither (2006)

5. Flash Gordon (1980)
Domestic Gross: $3,934,030
- I recently caught Flash Gordon on cable and I can readily admit that it's not a well made movie. In particular, the acting is atrocious. Even my man Max Von Sydow (who admittedly was terrible pretty often when away from Ingmar Bergman) reached new levels of woodeness. However, I can happily report that I saw Flash Gordon in the theater at least twice and contributed to the little money that it did make. The thing is that at the age of 5, I enjoyed Flash Gordon just as much as I did Star Wars. They were both just fantasy/sci-fi movies, and, even though Star Wars was already a cultural phenomenon (enough that Flash Gordon ripped it off pretty obviously throughout), I was as excited about the winged Vultans as I was about Wookies and Greedos. I still have a soft spot for Flash Gordon which I mask by liking it ironically.

4. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)
Budget: $40,000,000
Domestic Gross: $8,083,123
- It's been a loooong time since I've seen Baron Munchausen. It's one of the only Terry Gilliam movies that I don't own on DVD because I keep holding out for them to do a special edition with some bonus features about the production or a commentary [apparenlty my prayers have been answered and a special edition was released last month!], so It's possible that I've selectively forgotten the films weaknesses in my vague recollection. First off, I was a big fan of mythology & tall tales as a kid and Münchhausen's Narrative of his Marvellous Travels by Rudolf Erich Raspe was a particular favorite, though I'd forgotten much of it by the time I caught Terry Gilliam's film and spent much of the movie thinking, 'I know this story, where do I know this from?!' Add to that Terry Gilliam's overly lush production design and dark humor and you've got a wonderfully imaginative movie that teaches kids to be brave, have adventures, but doesn't sugarcoat the dangers involved including societal ostracization.

3. Ed Wood (1994)
Domestic Gross: $5,887,457
It's surprising that a movie that won Golden Globes & Oscars and had a manageably small budget was such a financial failure at the box office. Tim Burton's most mature film, a tribute to the schlock director behind such notorious classics as Plan 9 From Outer Space & Glen Or Glenda, Ed Wood does a beautiful job of capturing the tone of Wood's low-budget Hollywood, his outsider status, and eccentric, but good-natured demeanor. The film is hilarious, as Burton doesn't shy away from highlighting the bizarre ideas & behaviour of the filmmaker, and his strange adopted family of down-in-their-luck actors, but he does so with a warm reverence. Marin Landau's oscar-winning portrayal of an aged Bela Lugosi is funny and endearing and very deserving of the recognition. Highly recommended.

2. Zodiac (2007)
Domestic Gross: $33,080,083
I guess people were still smarting from Panic Room, but it's still surprising that Zodiac was such a bust at the box office considering how much geek-cache David Fincher still has. I really enjoyed Zodiac (and in fact put it at no. 4 in my top 10 Films of 2007 here) and it's certainly one of the best crafted (2nd best even!) box office bombs ever.

1. The Iron Giant (1999)
Domestic Gross: $23,159,305
A fantastic, primarily cel-animated film that deals with some pretty heavy cold war topics with an overflowing amount of heart, The Iron Giant might have been a tough sell to the under 5 set, but it should never have been mistreated in its release like it was. Luckily it's found a nice, second life in video, but there is really no excuse for this being a box office bomb. It's beautifully made and infinitely likeable!

BTW This is an open invitation to post your own picks for any topic in the comments. I'd love to read them.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Record Score! - We Don't Need No Water

EPMD "Cross Over" 12" (Def Jam)
I've always been a little lukewarm on EPMD. They've got a good rugged style and Erick Sermon is a beast on production, but it's rare that I find myself thinking 'I need to hear some EPMD.' "Cross Over" is the exception. Ever since I saw the video for this on Yo MTV Raps! back in 1992, I find myself humming that damned Roger Troutman sample. The irony that EPMD's biggest hit was also their 'no-sellout' track isn't lost on me either.

Public Enemy "Shut Em Down" 12" (Def Jam)
It's always a bitter sweet thing when a DJ sells off all of their vinyl. You hate to see someone that worked for eons building up their library suddenly abandon crate digging for whatever reason. The flipside is of course that we all become vultures rushing in to pick the collection over. So that's how i ended up with a VG+ copy of this classic hip hop 12" featuring the notorious Pete Rock remix of Public Enemy's "Shut Em Down," A local DJ decided that he was 'tired of dealing with' all of his records and sold them off at a song. I own another copy of this record, but it's super beat and dusted with what I think is laundry detergent, so I never noticed how damned quiet the 12" pressing of this song actually is. Those banging Pete Rock drums and blaring horns that I've been rocking on bootleg represses for so long sound like whimpers on the tiny grooves of the OG vinyl. Even the Lp version with the sonic assault of the Bomb Squad's beats doesn't have the same neck snapping impact. It's still a rush to own this piece of hip hop history though.

KMD "What A Nigga Know" 12" (Elektra)
There's no way that KMD was ever going to be a mainstream act, but it's still a tragedy the way their 2nd album fell victim to so many conspiring circumstances. Zev Luv X (now widely loved as MF Doom) and his brother Subroc really embraced the creative spirit of hip hop on every level. Their lyrics and beats are so unique to their own sensibilities that there's zero chance that anyone else could have created the 1991 "Mr. Hood" or "Black Bastards" which was originally slated for release in 1994. "What A Nigga Know" was the pre-album single for "Black Bastards" and it's a perfect Golden 90's single full of complex soul sampling, swinging rapid fire delivery and a playful energy. Unfortunately 1994 was also when all of the record labels were in a state of upheaval, dropping all of their rosters of classic hip hop acts in search of the next Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 2Pac & other crossover west coast 'gangsta' acts. So KMD was on shaky ground when they tried to push their caricature of "little sambo" for the cover of their record, and Elektra opted to shelve the album instead (Elektra was particularly guilty of sending a lot of completed hip hop classics to their vaults to go unheard except through bootlegs and tape trading). As a horrible capper to the whole thing, Subroc was struck by a car and killed shortly thereafter. Zev Luv dropped out of sight and didn't resurface until Bobbito started to release MF Doom singles on his Fondle Em Records label in the last 90's. So this single is a brilliant collection of music and an important piece of the puzzle.

DJ Food "Jazz Brakes Volume 1" Lp (Ninja Tune)
16 short hiphop breaks hovering between 95-125 BPM. Released in 1990, i'm pretty sure DJ Food at this point was just an alias for Coldcut doing a little bit of record contract dodging while they launched their own Ninja Tune label (The DJ Food moniker would later be taken up by Strictly Kev & PC). While i still love the early 90's downtempo sound and there is a nice range of beats here, I have to admit that it's a bigger thrill to own a nice copy of the 2nd release on Ninja Tune, which became one of my favorite labels for most of the 90's & early 2000's. I guess I'm collector scum.

MC Serch "Here It Comes" 12" (Def Jam)
Long before he was pissing me off as the host of Ego Trip's White Rapper Show on VH1, but after he was 'steppin to the AM' with 3rd Bass, MC Serch put out a pretty strong solo record called "Return Of The Product". I bought the CD used based entirely on the strength of this single, and even though I remember liking the album it must not have been enough to save it from a purge. The single still stands up with a nice boastful edge that has an aggressive energy but doesn't get juiced to the level of starting dumb shit. The 12" also features 2 tracks produced by T-Ray, one of my favorite producers from the era, a remix of "Here It Comes" and the album track "Back To The Grill" featuring Chubb Rock, Red Hot Lover Tone and an early appearance by Nasty Nas.

Satao Watanabe "Round Trip" Lp (Vanguard)
1974 album with Chick Corea, Miroslav Vitous, and Jack DeJohnette. With a line-up like that, there's pretty much no way you can go wrong. Even with 20 minute long tracks all of the players are shredding their hardest and doing an admirable job of avoiding stepping on eachother's playing. Unfortunately I feel like Watanabe is a little too out front in the mix and even though you can hear Vitous and DeJohnette pounding through notes in the background it's a little muddy for my tastes.

Jean Pierre Mas & Cesarius Alvim "Ruo de Lourmel" Lp (Inner City)
Bass & Piano duets from 1976, this is a fantastic record. Once again the production & mastering from Inner City is top notch and it allows the bass to be warm but percussive while the piano rolls through with heartbreaking melodies.

I don't know why I keep ending up with an odd number of records but it gives me a chance to fill out the block with a picture of Totoro, the goddamned cutest thing in the history of things.