Pon de Dancefloor, Pon de Cultural Significance of Minimalism
O’Neil Bryan is Elephant Man, party machine, exists only to get kids onto dancefloor. Cutting edge sampler of current electro-reggae production? Twelve different dancehall/crunk beatmakers for 20 tracks in 69 minutes. Elephant Man upbeat hyperactive vocal presence, genius on many levels.
Surreal review reflecting surreal nature of Elephant Man “songs”. Songs not even actually songs. Not sure what they are.
Elephant Man in no way to be denied. In “Pon de River Pon de Bank”, we do the dance because we are afraid not to. After all, the Man assures, “I’ve seen nuff dance before / But I’ve never seen a dance like this.” You’ve seen video, you know how it goes. Anecdote about beatific face of my daughter when she finally mastered “Give them a run” part. No variation in track—only way it’s chorus is guesswork. But no one cares, because its centrifugal force makes human body ripple like cheap-ass wine. As the Man says, “Two thousand and t’ree / I’m just doin’ this for the kids and me / And the fans all agree.” Just so you know.
All tracks are hot like Salma Hayek and twice as fierce. Hit shuffle and know the truth: “Bad Man” with its two-note acoustic guitar hook, “Indian Gal” with its fakey sitar and fakey Bollywood beat, surprisingly great flowing Killah Priest guestwork of “Who We Are”. Herve Villechaize reference on “Signal De Plane”? Direct rip-off of “Tequila” on “Bad Man”! Possible depth/ambiguity of “Jamaica” vs. “Na Gwan a Jamaica”, rendered all ah-who-cares by great Beenie Man impersonation on former, Gary Numan skank on latter.
Random reference to David Lynch film David Hare play John Merrick Michael Jackson.
Decry homophobia in many songs. Homophobia is stupid, you stupid dumb-ass Elephant Man, Beenie Man, Buju Banton, Yellowman, all morons who traffic in this will not profit. Zion is full of those who respect others. Jesus, whatever his shortcomings (self-hating Jew, etc.), loved the outcast, the low-caste, the spurned and ‘buked. Jesus not down with hateration homophobia in de dancehall.
Anyway. Friend loves this CD in car, no idea what the hell EM banging on about. I had to tell her about aforementioned “chi-chi mon” badness. That bummed her out, but I’m sure she and her girlfriend will still drive around Chicago with “All Out” bangin’ out the speakers.
Elephant Man still minimalism’s finest hour. Evidence: how “Jook Gal (Wine, Wine)” is straight-up crunk, formula Miami booty bass plus new wave synths plus sea shanty, with Bone Crusher and Lil’ Jon and Kiprich. Crunk has huge dancehall influence, surprised no one talks about this before me.
Minimalism important. “Cock Up Your Bumper” has cool sounds, steel drums which are also tabla/sitar sounds, more solid evidence of Indian influence in Caribbean music and culture apart from diwaali beat, etc. Lots of sounds, but no notes longer than quarter notes, title repeated one million times. “Bun Fi Bun” electrofunk like Egyptian Lover, like World Class Wreckin Cru. “Who You Think U Is” starts by ripping off “Tequila” again, talk about strategy of least resistance. Many/most songs start: “Yep! Good 2 Go!”, say it enuf & ppl remember it. U kant B 2 careful.
Minimalist reference that didn’t work: Hemingway. Hills Like White Elephant(s) Man(s). Discard.
Special para in re: “Fuck You Sign”. Maybe no finer song ever released, maybe derivative shite. Insane tempo, crazy out of control tabla/snake-flute music, goes beyond Bollywood into qawwali Pakistani devotional music mode, Man twisting vocals into the patterns taken by heatseeking missles when chasing something to be destroyed, like alien spacecraft and/or all modern music. Like end of world, song all over in three minutes and fifteen seconds.
Why did I not include “Fuck You Sign” on my top 10 list? Maybe I’m afraid of it, maybe I don’t want too many people to hear this. It could drive you quickly to insanity. Maybe I forgot because for all its sonic impact it has virtually no vitamins, minerals, all empty calories, no nutrients.
Strangest cut: “Mexican Girl”. Not first or 3,000,000th sad meditation on amazing beauty and mystery and majesty of las mujeres mexicanas, sounds mostly like “Tijuana Lady” by Gomez, imagine the freakiness of that juxtaposition if you know Gomez, bearded lads from England and non-bearded lad from Kingston both writing same song. Also “Mexican Girl” only song on album using whole notes.
No gravitas here whatsoever, no statements made other than that gays are bad and girls are good and Elephant Man will mess you up if you try to step to him. Two different songs that combine two songs into one and have slashes in the middle. Love this album but don’t like it necessarily.
Elephant Man, for better or worse, is the future of pop music. Cut and print, -30-, #, byline, Audi 5000 turbo.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong online. Please consider a donation to support our work as an independent publisher devoted to the arts and humanities. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where advertising no longer covers our costs. We need your help to keep PopMatters publishing. Thank you.
// Sound Affects
"Natalie Hemby's Puxico is a standout debut from a songwriter who has been behind the scenes for over a decade.READ the article