Brassy are just the sort of band I fantasize about being in. It’s not that they’re one of my favorite bands, though I like them fine enough. It’s more that they seem like such masters of the art of being cooler than thou. Who wouldn’t want to spit out paeans to one’s own greatness over swaggering beats and steel-toed guitar smacks? It’s the endearingly American formula of traditional rock idolatry whereby the masses are held in sway through someone’s unshakable assertion of their own sexual and musical prowess. Not much has changed since Brassy’s 2001 debut
Got It Made. If you were looking for some massive rewriting of their flippant punk hop stylings, then you probably didn’t listen well enough the first time around. Brassy are all about danceable threats, a bunch of white girls with dog-eared Descendents LPs who want to spend ten or so tracks dishing the dozens to haters and licking their own reflections in heavy-panted braggadocio. This is supposed to be an album to get horny on yourself with, the kind of music you put on when you’re getting ready to go out for the night and you do that “Buffalo Bill” from Silence of the Lambs routine in your mirror. You know, the one that goes: “Would you fuck me? I’d fuck me.”
Brassy are practically a torture chamber of relentless hooks. They’re like a cheerleading camp rock band made up of the “go fuck yourself” smoker chicks. “Hit ‘em Hard” has Muffin Spencer (sister of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s Jon Spencer) dropping a diss list over a raucous call-and-response chorus and a punchy riff that could easily have been lifted from Joan Jett’s version of “I Love Rock and Roll”. Muffin’s flow combines seduction and imperviousness, the kind of tone you’d expect from a supermodel-grifter who wants you to use your eyeball to light her Pall Mall match. At times, Brassy can veer into a rougher shades of trip-hop. “Mine” and “Good Place” both sound like they could be Ruby singles or standout tracks on a DJ Kicks compilation, particularly “Good Place” with its deep canyoned drum loops and reverberating, tunneled humming. This nod toward trip-hop is made more prevalent due to Spencer’s vocals that, at times, evoke the ocean floor funk of Roison Murphy from Moloko.
Gettin Wise’s best moments are in the tracks where the ladies toss out their b-girl strut and engage in old skool bouts of bragging. Brassy beats yo mamma. Brassy is too fine for yo ass. Brassy wouldn’t touch you with your stepdaddy’s nasty thang. I mean, surely your badassness runneth over when you’re singing a song where you slowly spell out your band name over a DJ Screwed sludge drum and a Vicodin-laced bumblebee on a track like “Everything You Need”. Then there’s the sheer chin-socking chutzpah of writing a sequel to a track from your last record (“Whole Stole the Show?”) with a song that basically reaffirms the egotistical nugget of the original (“Still Stealing”). “Dus’” takes a funk lick of guitar, and pummeled metallic drums over a battery of ass whooping promises that one is convinced aren’t empty. “Turn This Thing Up” is reminiscent of the some of the Beastie Boy’s silly as shit, but hilariously enjoyable, sidetracks into ‘70s cop show themes. Not to mention, Muffin’s snowballing, breakneck pace folds flawlessly into the rubber burnin’ wah wah. Title track, “Gettin Wise”, stands out as queen of the hill, with Muffin singing snakily from the side of her mouth over a thick pluck of bass, back-up “ooh’s” and a beat that almost snaps your neck with groove.
There’s only one track that makes no sense. “Swett’s Muse” is a showcase for their DJ whose slick undercurrents make Gettin Wise pounce like Tigger, though as a track by itself, it’s woefully out of place. It sounds like the sort of thing that gets thrown on an album to prevent someone from leaving over “artistic differences”. Yes, Swett, you have madly fonky, chunky beats, but they sound a lot better pimp rollin’ under the vocals. If you can’t figure out what the hell to do for an extra track, just do a skit. Y’know, an answering machine message from a drugged out friend or an industry person whose sincere evil is worth a few chuckles the first ten times through. (e.g. “We think you girls should have a cartoon! How about rapping polar bears who work in a forensics lab?”)
If Gettin Wise has any faults, they’re lost on me. I suppose you could scuff the album for its incessant hands-in-the-air pace and the exhaustion that can come from songs that are built around sadistically catchy lyrical knots. But that’s the sort of criticism that’s itchin’ for a fight that needn’t be. If you’re in the mood for a record that gives you nothing but cocky abandon, tight mic taunts, and beats that thunder in like surly weather, then Brassy are your best bet. After all, everyone needs to purr at themselves once a bit.
// Notes from the Road
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