Call for Music Writers... Rock, Indie, Urban, Electronic, Americana, Metal, World and More

 
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Friday, Aug 27, 2010
From the irresistible call of the opening drums to the indeterminate farewell of the last, fading chant, 'Super Ape' incarnates a sonic world, a microcosm of rhythm, mix, melody, and toasting that, whatever your personal tastes, stands replete and to itself.

There is nothing quite like Super Ape. On first listen, the uninitiated are set up for disappointment—it’s a gateway but also a dead end into the world of dub and psychedelic reggae. There’s a legion of adjectives that fly fast and thick to describe it: dense, lush, and inimitable, it’s a critic’s wet dream. Above all, Super Ape is captivating. It’s one of those rare “masterpieces” that embraces you instead of demanding your concentration. From the irresistible call of the opening drums to the indeterminate farewell of the last, fading chant, the album incarnates a sonic world, a microcosm of rhythm, mix, melody, and toasting that, whatever your personal tastes, stands replete and to itself.


The ape of the title and of the outrageous cover art is meant to represent Lee Perry himself (the original LP was titled Scratch the Super Ape and had a different track order), and though the artist credit goes to the Upsetters. he does loom large over the music of Super Ape. He was never distinguishable from his house band anyway, but here the studio dub thoroughly supersedes the instrumentals. Perry has been praised by many for his skills as an arranger and coach to his session musicians, and this album is manifest proof of his talent for supervising each step of the process with an eye toward the final result. Even when his samples are taken from other completed songs, they feel authentic and utterly natural in dub. The innovative instrumental albums of his past show Perry doing just as much “dubbing” in the studio as he and his peers would eventually do after the fact, working with experimental effects and imbuing his music with an exceptional ambiance. In some ways, Super Ape is the conclusion of that process, a bona fide dub album built from the ground up.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Friday, Aug 20, 2010
Max Romeo's 'War Ina Babylon' was just the beginning of a tremendously fertile period for producer Lee Perry. In less than two years he would produce an impressive batch of albums, several of which remain absolute classics. 'War Ina Babylon' can measure up to all of them in one way or another, and that is the main reason it is remembered as an essential piece of the roots reggae canon.

The producer occupies a unique place in the crowded and intricate world of Jamaican music. Making sense of the countless singers, engineers, and instrumentalists who could be involved in any given song requires the kind of expertise enjoyed by few casual listeners, but in some cases the studio at which a recording was made is a convenient shortcut. The producer, after all, was frequently responsible for bringing the contributors together, as well as for creating the atmosphere of the record—a deciding factor in the message and the impact of reggae music. Auteurs like Joe Gibbs, Keith Hudson, and Augustus Pablo were the men who shaped a final product from the diverse forces guiding Jamaican music, forging an individual legacy from the talents of a host of musicians, songwriters, and engineers.


Lee “Scratch” Perry, the volatile, brilliant, and idiosyncratic man behind the Upsetters band and the Black Ark studio, tops them all. He played a pivotal role in the rise of groups and singers like Junior Murvin, the Congos, and the Wailers, and in the course of a long and passionate career he was a key player in pushing the bounds of expression to fashion dub and reggae itself from older forms. Forced to choose a single figure upon which to found an understanding of reggae in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Perry would not be a bad choice.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Friday, Aug 6, 2010
Twenty years ago, two albums addressed a man made environmental disaster and a racial divide that never seemed to close. You'd think these albums would sound dated today...

“Nineteen eighty-nine! / The number another summer”, Chuck D declared on “Fight the Power”, the pinnacle song from that summer’s most incendiary movie, Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing.


But that summer was far from just another summer. The summer began with the protests in Tiananmen Square, which at first looked peaceful, but then turned shockingly violent as thousands of demonstrators were killed during China’s brutal crackdown. Also during that summer, the Eastern Bloc countries were falling at an astounding rate, culminating with the fall of the Berlin Wall in November.


The collapse of the Berlin Wall was a defining closer to the 1980s. For many, the ‘80s felt like a big party. This was reflected in popular music, fashion and movies. Sure, East and West had the threat of “mutually assured destruction” looming over, but heyah, at least the economy was booming. But as the ‘80s and the Cold War drew to a close, there seemed to be a collective bit of hangover’s regret going on. For too long, it seemed like pop culture was a non-stop party. The charts were filled with either boy bands or hair-teased pop metal (with a few bright exceptions, thanks to U2 and the unlikely top ten self-titled smash from Tracy Chapman). Now, as peace has broken out, it was time to get serious. If only there was a cause to galvanize this newfound sense of responsibility.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Friday, Jun 4, 2010
By 1989, Robert Smith had grown a bit weary of his new found pop stardom and was determined to swim out of the mainstream back into what he thought were the deeper waters of the band's earlier work.

With 1987’s sprawling double album Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, the Cure, long considered by many fans to be the face of alternative music achieved something “the face of alternative music” was never supposed to achieve. Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me made the Cure mainstream pop stars. Of course, their stardom was pretty much an inevitable product of their immense talent. The Cure was never simply an alternative band in the first place. They were Masters of the Form blessed with an incredibly gifted songwriter in Robert Smith that had a knack for writing shimmering pop compositions so catchy they were destined to crossover into the musical mainstream. After Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, the Cure was no longer the cool band that only smart kids liked or the depressing band that only weird kids liked. After Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, and its predecessor The Head on the Door, the Cure was the band who sang “Close to You”, “Why Can’t I Be You” and “Just Like Heaven”, tunes so good and accessible that they were songs that everybody liked.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Friday, May 21, 2010
The Buzzocks storm New York playing their first two classic albums and associated singles and PopMatters chats with frontman Pete Shelley and cohort Steve Diggle.

Let’s face it; Buzzcocks were never the most aggro band on the original UK punk scene. Though inspired to form by seeing the decidedly more in-your-face Sex Pistols, while other bands spit hostile epithets about the decay of society or feeling disenfranchised by a monarchist regime, Manchester’s Buzzcocks railed against “Fast Cars”.


So, when paranoia sent lower Manhattan into a brief tumult of panic, it seemed odd to find Buzzcocks at the center of the maelstrom. In the wake of the failed car bomb in Times Square earlier this month, New York City, if the tabloid media is to be believed, has been a bit on edge. Even so, when genial Buzzcocks frontman Pete Shelley was stopped mid-song during the band’s set last Thursday night at the Fillmore at Irving Plaza with a message from police that a specific car with a specific license plate number had to be moved, it seemed more innocuously surreal than terrifying. And it wasn’t until those leaving the show were led not through the front doors, but instead through a winding hallway and out a side entrance that the notion something really might be wrong set upon the crowd.


Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.