Monday, August 28, 2006

Review: The Roots - Game Theory

The Roots - Game Theory (Def Jam)

It's a dark, dark world where The Roots reside right now, but that doesn't mean there's no light at all. Album number eight for the Illadelph crew sees their first outing for Def Jam, a worthy home for a band many consider to be true to the essence of hip hop (ie. The music comes first, the beats are tight, and the less bling the better). Many fans were skeptical of what would happen to the band, one of the first signings for the label's new president, CEO, and all-around head Hovito, Jay-Z. Would the band succumb to the pressure brought on by the greater exposure Def Jam would bring? Cave-in and dilute their essence with a slew of big-name cameos ('Come on down Snoop, Kanye, Pharrell, the water's fine!')? Retreat into their shells and bring out 79 minutes of drawn out jams that make Phrenology's 'Water' tame by comparison? One of these paths might just have been taken by a band who have never really broken into the big leagues; that is, if Hurricane Katrina hadn't torn through New Orleans last year, and changed the game completely.

Bristled by the lack of an immediate response shown by the Bush government, and the issues raised in Katrina's aftermath (such as the racial divide in New Orleans, assitance in Iraq vs assistance at home, and healthcare prior to, and especially after, Katrina's impact to name just a few), the gestation of Game Theory suddenly became more clouded. Indeed, no one would have expected a Def Jam debut to be this dark. Or that the mood created by Katrina, the US military's involvement in Iraq, and the general air of unease in the US over the last few years has prompted the band to make their most cohesive, if not best, album to date.

While there's no single track that will garner heavy rotation on MTV ('The Seed 2.0'), no killer 'group jam' (the J Dilla tribute 'Can't Stop This', while touching, is too long and drawn out to demand the listener reach for the repeat button), or no hold-the-phones cameos (nope, Hov thankfully didn't get a guest spot), what Game Theory has in spades is a strong flow that warrants listening from start to finish. Indeed, the aforementioned 'Can't Stop This' is really the only average moment here, and even then it still succeeds in ensuring Dilla's legacy won't easily be forgotten, the track built on one of the rough gems that came from the Detroit native's Donuts LP (released earlier in 2006 just days before his death).

The brooding one-two of 'False Media' and the title track show that this ain't no block party. Black Thought is often unfairly overlooked when it comes to discussions over rap's great MCs, but on Game Theory it's the tension surrounding affairs that really brings the best out of Tariq Trotter. On the booming, brooding 'All In The Music', featuring a welcome return spot from prodigal son Malik B, Thought paints a vivid picture of the darker side of the streets ('They say the city make a dark impression, the youth just lost, and they want direction, but they don't get the police, they get protection, and walk around with heat like Charlton Heston'). 'Long Time', backed by a backdrop of strings and Motown harmonies, sees Thought delve into personal memories of family struggles and survival, 'making something out of nothing, because everybody 50 cent away from a quarter though where I come from'. It's stirring stuff, easily the album's highpoint, and one of the band's best recorded moments.

Elsewhere 'Here I Come' sounds like the perfect backdrop music for a good ol' fashioned car chase, 'Clock With No Hands' is a slow jam made all the sweeter by the presence of Mercedes Martinez from the Jazzyfatnastees, while 'Atonement' (complete with a sample from Radiohead's 'You And Whose Army') ensures that the mood of Game Theory's final minutes is one of reflection.

So where does leave Philly's finest? Well, given the air surrounding much of Game Theory's subject matter, don't expect this to be the unit-shifter the band deserves. The promotional budget weilded by their new label will help expose them to a much wider audience, and initial press reviews have been more than favourable (although critics have usually been kind to The Roots). What Game Theory does indicate is that eight albums into their career, The Roots may have succeded in their fulfilling the inital request made to them by President Carter before signing on the dotted line - 'I want the real Roots album'. Well, Jigga, you got your wish.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I knew it!

You Are A: Pony!

ponyWho doesn't love a pony? You are one of these miniature horses, renown for your beauty and desired by many. Full of grace, you are a beautiful and very special animal, full of strength and majesty.

You were almost a: Lamb or a Duck
You are least like a: Chipmunk or a MouseThe Cute Animals Quiz

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Who eats nachos at the movies anyway? Seriously.

WARNING: It's a 'back in the day' post, so if reminiscing ain't your style, scroll down to the bits and bobs afterwards. I'll make it worth your while....


Back in the heady days of my youth, when I had more free time (and cash) to spend, my regular haunts around old Canberra town were the local record store (R.I.P. Impact Records), the mall, and my personal favourite, the cinema. For a city of over 300 000, Canberra didn't do to badly when it came to places to while away a few hours in a darkened room with a bag of popcorn, a caffeinated beverage that had far too much ice in it, some rowdy kids, and a few unemployed peeps wasting the hours between The Midday Show and Neighbours.

If you wanted to see the latest Hollywood tripe, then the Greater Union in Civic and Tuggeranong would suffice. Those who wanted the finest in local and arthouse flicks could usually find a flick at either Electric Shadows or Centre Cinema to suit their refined palette. The mall in Belconnen soon acquired its own cinema in the form of the Hoyts behemoth (10 screens I believe...are that many needed?), and the small quaint picturehouse in Manuka soon became a mini-multiplex as well, although it catered to both the mainstream and arthouse crowd too, so you at least had a choice between the latest Denzel Washington or Daniel Auteuil vehicle (Auteuil everytime).

So for most of my formative teenage years going to the movies became more than just the treat my parents would provide every school holidays. Hours were spent glaring towards large screens, sometimes accompanied by THX or surround sound if my luck was in. Sure, a bad choice might have been made now and then, the realisation coming only after the Coke became watery, and all that was left in the popcorn bag were loose kernels that broke your teeth (Volcano? I think the only reason I saw that load of bollocks was that I'd seen everything else that was showing. And it was a joint decision too, so I'm only taking half the blame for that flaming turd), but overall I'd say the ratio of good to bad flicks was around 80:20.

Then a few years ago I moved to London, and all of a sudden I stopped going to the movies. Partly due to the exorbitant prices charged at the box-offices (especially the tourist traps of the West End), but partly because I had a new city to explore. Long gone were the days when I would pride myself in having seen every film nominated for Best Picture at that years Oscars. This year? Not one of the five up for the gong, not even 'Jake and Heath Get Their Spurs On'. What happened? Well it comes down to these factors - work, music, records, football, relationships, going out, far too much time spent on tubes, buses and other forms of public transportation, making ends meet, shopping, kitting out numerous flats in Swedish furniture, trawling markets for hidden gems, days in the park, travelling, and most of all, getting to know London.

Recently, I've started to watch films again on a more regular basis. Getting into Hayao Miyazaki, watching Samuel L. Jackson getting 'mother-fucking snakes' off a 'mother-fucking plane', seeing Captain Jack swashbuckle and talk his way out of trouble, watching Cary Grant run away from Martin Landau while falling in love with Eva Marie Saint.....suddenly, it's like I'm 14 again, and flush with pocket money and free time, seeing movies regularly seems natural again. Time to grab a bag of over salted popcorn, an over iced Coke, and sit back down in the stadium seats for two and a half hours at a time while my butt gets numb. This time though, no Tommy Lee Jones disaster flicks OK?


* So that's 10 million quid in the coffers - cheers Rafa!

* That Christina album isn't too bad, as long as you throw away the tripe filled Linda Perry second disc. Here's a re-rub of the Preemo helmed 'Back In The Day', with Termanology filling up a few bars just for fun (thanks to the kids at Spine)

* Nat at A Bit Nice spin-off My Two Dads is compiling a definitive list of your favourite TV theme tunes....ever! (note the exclamation mark to show just how important this task is). Won't you help out, pwwwwwwease? Here's one of my childhood favourites, with added Spanish glamour.

* One of those tarted up boozers that occasionally allows me to plays tunes, as well as get slighty tipsy, finally has a MySpace page. Add the Weld to your list of compadres.

And for those that skipped Major Leaguer's own version of The Wonder Years at the start of today's post, here's your reward.

Told you it was worth your while.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Help me get an I-Pod, k? / Back with the heavyweight jams!

Another long absence between posts huh? Well, I'll see if I can turn that around. But first....I want an I-Pod dammit. Help me get one by clicking here and then you too could have one! You'll have to complete one of the many sponsored offers that the 'Free I-Pod' people have (go for the Screenselect free month trial - free DVDs!) and once you've completed it, and get 5 other people to do the same, then you too could have a lovely Nano or 30GB beast of your own. I'm going to call mine Sparky.....

Right. So what's been going on? Well, the last month has been a bit of a blur with a few spots of deck-wrecking, visitors from the land down under, the odd gig or two, and stacks of good music out. Let's get to the highlights shall we?

* Music first. Best compilation of the year? Well, it'll be hard to top the latest Fabric mix from my fellow mixed up antipodeans, Cut Copy. The tracklisting (B-LO!) basically begs that you spent your hard earned on it immediately with cuts from Justice, New Young Pony Club, Fred Falke, Roxy Music, Midnight Juggernauts, Daft Punk, the Cutters themselves, and a shedload more. In fact, one of those big music chains in the UK is doing a 2 for 1 Fabric deal at the moment, so you can grab Diplo's set from last year for nix at the same time!! Bloody brilliant I tells ya....

1. I Wish You Were Gone - Joakim
2. Future Unlimited - Cut Copy
3. Disco Clown - Munk
4. Hello Empty Room - Who Made Who
5. Future Unlimited - Cut Copy
6. Get Dancey - New Young Pony Club
7. Bang Bang - In Flagranti
8. Side In - Goldfrapp
9. Dead Eyes Opened - Severed Heads
10. Out The Door - Who Made Who
11. Face To Face - Daft Punk
12. Truth And Lies - Presets (1)
13. Work On You - MSTRKRFT
14. Stop - Casco & BWH
15. Your Retro Career Melted - Faint
16. E Talking - Soulwax
17. Into The Groovey - Ciccone Youth
18. Waters Of Nazareth - Justice (3)
19. Eisbar - Grauzone
20. Acid Never Lies - Riot In Belgium
21. Shadows - Midnight Juggernauts
22. Omega Man - Falke, Fred
23. Champu - Diamond, Daniel
24. Angel Eyes - Roxy Music
25. Going Nowhere - Cut Copy
26. Dream Sequence - Cut Copy


* While Through Being Cool is taking a break, there's a new night starting in October that I feel obliged to plug (like the dirty commercialist that I've become). More news when it comes to hand.

* Big shouts and hollering to the Mindie gals who invited me to play some tunes at their 93 Feet East banger a few weeks back. Let's do it again!

* Gig of the month? Gig of the year - Seu Jorge at Koko as part of the TrocoBrahma festival (beer sponsored, yes, but that's a minor quibble. Anyway, this whole post smacks of sell-out don't you think? Maybe I should go off and chill with Leonard Cohen's monk posse for a while to cleanse my soul). Pickchas? Yeah, scroll down y'all.

Sway, Dynamite MC and Instituto (a bit like Brazil's closest equivalent to The Roots)

Mr Jorge himself.

Jorge and the crew join the crew for a mass dance at the evenings end (during the third encore too!)

*What's on the stereo at the moment?

Midnight Juggernauts - Shadows
Outkast feat. Scar & Sleepy Brown - Morris Brown
The Futureheads - Worry About It Later (Switch remix)
The Roots feat Peedi Peedi - Long Time Comin' (yes, it refuses to budge from the stereo. Class all the way. Bring on Game Theory next Monday)
Cassius - Jack Rock (yes, it's rave meets Italo-house!)
Simian Mobile Disco - Animal House
Christina Aguilera - Still Dirrty
Peanut Butter Wolf - 666 mix (Slayer? The Cure? Ministry? Check, check, check! Get it here or be damned for all eternity!)
Snowden - Black Eyes (Le Castle Vania remix)
Ryan Adams - France
OMD - If You Leave (Time for a John Hughes marathon...)
CSS - Alala
Scissor Sisters - I Don't Feel Like Dancin' (it just burrows in your brain...)

* Oh, and grab the Outkast newie too. Jazztastic.

Right, I'm off to dream of free I-Pods and planes sans snakes (the best B-movie of the year? Maybe.) Back tomorrow.