Music

Bumblebeez 81: The Printz

Justin Cober-Lake

Bumblebeez 81

The Printz

Label: Geffen
US Release Date: 2004-05-25
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

For a brief time, it looked like Bumblebeez 81 were about to be the next big thing. The Australian duo's first two EPs, White Printz and Red Printz were being put together for a US full-length release on Geffen records a buzz was growing. Then the album (appropriately titled The Printz dropped to a few raves, but also to more than a few noncommital grunts, which is kind of hard to imagine. Spin this disc even once, and you'll understand both the hype and the varied reaction.

You've got to understand that Bumblebeez 81 come largely from art-school dropout Chris Colonna (yes, he's one of them). Colonna comes across like a music nerd with some kind of chemical imbalance leading to hyperactivity. He constructs his songs by throwing in a little bit of whatever strikes his fancy and ad-libbing some jibber-jabber over them. When it works, it works. His beats are sporadic and wild, but they're the foundational of some great bangers. "Step Back", the track that boosted Colonna's career centers on a dirty bass and simple percussion, but it grows until suddenly dropping to ambience (with distant screaming) and then building again. In the final third of the song, all kinds of sloppy noise breaks out over the steady beat, and that's the group at it's best.

"Step Back" sets the tone for what the group's going to do. Colonna's listened to plenty of types of music, and he wants to put it all in the pot and crank up the heat. He's largely successful with this approach and sometimes very fun, such as when he ends "Pink Fairy Floss" with an old-school sounding vocal followed by a breakout of the song's tight drums into a completely hand-drummed and marching-band mess. It really is fantastic, as are the yell-laced 101 seconds of "Let's Go", which doesn't support sedentary listening.

Colonna's sister Pia, aka ViLa, joins him on many of the tracks as the royal MC. She's not lacking energy, but her rhymes just aren't up to the level of Colonna's musical constructions. Mostly she brings battle rhymes, but they're not strong enough to be threatening, and not silly enough to be fun. When she opens "Pink Fairy Floss" with "Queen ViLa -- no other lady MC can get illa," I don't respond to her braggadacio. I just wonder when the next instrumental comes in. When she claims to "think about the things that she said", I just wish she'd think about the things she's saying on the record. They're not good. Unlike her lyrics, her sound works well in the mayhem going on around her. Bumblebeez 81 want nothing more than to pile up the controlled chaos, and she can help out with that job.

Bumblebeez 81 are often compared not inaccurately to Beck and the Beasties Boys, but these B-bands have some key differences. They've got Beck's kitchen-sink-included aesthetic, but without the smart irony (or the hipster posturing). The Beez aren't at all a serious group, but they lack the Beasties' humor, which is probably both good and bad. Lyrically, the duo's utterly forgettable. Musically, they have some stellar moments, but frenzied chopping and bouncing loses its frantic feel when it goes on for the course of a whole album. The Colonnas try to break up the album with ViLa's raps, but that takes away from the music too much. What they need to learn to do is to shift moods while maintaining energy and creativity. In all his searching for influences and sounds and digital techniques, Chris Colonna needs to pause and check out some DJs. If he could add just a little RJD2 into his album structuring (though not necessarily his actual tracks), he could be poised to turn out a really fine album. If someone else writes ViLa's lines, of course.

Bumblebeez 81 might not live up to their brief moment of hype, but it's hard to be disappointed in them. They've got an interesting approach going, and their energy's undeniable. However, being semi-raw and a little bizarre isn't enough, and the sooner the Beez figure out what more they need to do, the sooner they could put together a really good album.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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