Music

Beast: Beast

Erin Lyndal Martin

There's plenty of beauty in this Beast.


Beast

Beast

Label: Verve
US Release Date: 2009-03-03
UK Release Date: 2009-03-03
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

The self-titled debut from Beast begins with "Devil" and ends with "Satan" -- a fact which might suggest a garish Anton LeVay tribute album rotten with black metal clichés. But no. This Beast is a surprisingly inventive album, blending rap-rock, electronica, powerhouse vocal soul, trip-hop, jazz, and gospel in new ways.

Beast is comprised of Jean-Phi Goncalves and Betty Bonifassi. Bonifassi plays the role of epic diva -- and plays it well, considering that she only speaks French, but must rap and sing in English throughout the album. Goncalves does everything else -- much to his surprise, considering he hadn't planned to do any vocal work for this album at all. Perhaps it is this inexperience that helps him deliver such raw performances like the rap-rock he throws down on "Devil" between gospel-inflected backing vocals.

The second track, "Finger Prints", is a lovely collage of dirty beats and Bonifassi's sprawling vocals. The beats give way to synths, electric guitars, and Goncalves half-rapping "if I could make my eyes come back / I would see where we went wrong", a lyric soon repeated by Bonifassi as the synths build and soar.

These two tracks aptly represent the album's aesthetic of beauty and grime layered throughout. "Microcyte" is another song that does this well, blending lovely keyboards with dirty beats and Goncalves' insistent raps with lines like "I need abortion for the doctor within me". "Mr. Hurricane" opens with more dated funk sounds than heard elsewhere on the album. Then, suddenly, it's a floor-filler whose chorus could rock the pants off a Beefeater (which has admittedly not been tested).

"Out of Control" is Bonifassi's first solo rap number. Here, her language barrier becomes an asset -- her crisp phonic articulation helps her maintain the song's rhythm. Ghostly backing vocals haunt the chorus's riff "out of control, out of control, we are getting out of control". Once she's taken the spotlight, she's hesitant to relinquish it, and she continues commanding attention on "Ashtray". Obscured by apocalyptic synths and fuzzy guitars, her voice still bleeds through with its ferocity intact as she croons "now I'm dying like a cigarette in an ashtray". Then a Charles Mingus sample appears and reappears over and over, increasingly sped up, while a desolate bass and the sad synths paint over it, until Bonifassi returns.

The music on Beast is so genius that it's a shame to focus only on the vocals, but the vocal chemistry between Gonvalves and Bonifassi is just so exciting. Take, for instance, "Dark Eyes". Goncalves quietly speaks his part with simple backing synths and bass, and Bonifassi enters, creating a counterpart of grandeur.

While the two interludes admittedly don't add much to the album, there is no filler here. Each song offers something new and displays different sides of Goncalves and Bonifassi. This spirit carries on through the album's twelve tracks, with Bonifassi pulling out a Southern gospel performance on "Satan" that calls her Quebeçoise status into question. A hearty portion of slightly dated rap fills out the song's midsection before listeners are plunked down again in an Alabama Baptist church. The album closes with Bonifassi belting out one final "Satan, your kingdom must come down".

Hallelujah, indeed.

8

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image