Chuck E. Weiss: Red Beans and Weiss

Cartoonish in nature, like an exploding cigar joke. No matter how smart one thinks he or she is, one always laughs to the groove at the moment of detonation.

Chuck E. Weiss

Red Beans and Weiss

Label: Anti-
US Release Date: 2014-04-15
UK Release Date: 2014-04-14

Chuck E. Weiss was born in 1952, which makes him too young to be one of Norman Mailer’s White Negroes (1957), but old and precocious enough to be imprinted on that era of mostly African American cool culture. It was a time of hep tenor sax jazz, a wild rhythmic lingo and spiel, cynical sentimentalism, and an attitude that acknowledged life in the past was better than the present tense, Cold War-wise that is. In other words, all that metal on your General Motors automobile may not protect you against the atomic bomb, but it sure feels safe to drive that boat of a car down the boulevard.

One could label Weiss’ music, “That Knucklehead Stuff”, as he titles one of his holy holy streetwise riffs on the meaning of life. Weiss grunts and growls over a funky drum and scratchy guitar beat punctuated by horn honks, bass drawls and such. He knows one has to fake it to make it in this world cuz that’s the best one can do. Hey, gimme a sip of that stuff in the brown bag.

Most of the time Weiss’ words don’t mean much more than their rhythmic sound, concrete poetry of the highest nature. This explains the ingratiating liveliness of such tunes as “Oo Poo Pa Do in the Rebop” and “The Hink-A-Dink”. They are cartoonish in nature, like an exploding cigar joke. No matter how smart one thinks he or she is, one always laughs to the groove at the moment of detonation.

Or sometimes it’s the missing bang that makes the biggest sound. On Weiss’ most affecting proclamation, “Bomb the Tracks”, he asks why no one blasted the railroad lines to the Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War. Apparently, Winston Churchill was in Brazil and “burned his tuches on a Volkswagen grill / Drinking Tokay wine with a girl named Bill." Joseph Stalin “was drawing futuristic pictures of Huckleberry Hound”. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in Maine “doing the Boogaloo chicken about to go insane”. In other words, they were doing nothing to save the Jews. Weiss doesn’t know who to blame “It’s not much danger / To bomb those chambers”, but comes to the conclusion that “I guess the whole world’s left to blame." The heaviness of the concern belies the lighthearted melody and tongue by jowl comments. One waits for Weiss to erupt, but he never does.

Speaking of “Waits” as in Tom, Weiss’ gruff voiced chum along with his other pal, actor Johnny Depp, served as executive producers of this disc. Weiss may sing that he's "friends of those who have no friends", but Weiss has 'em and like Waits, Weiss is much more of a raconteur than a singer. That’s cool. The whole disc is cool, as in frozen in time from another era. It captures the mythic America of big cars, small stages, cigar smoke, and cheap whiskey. Weiss even titled one of his compositions “New Old Song” because he knows being alive is just as scary today as yesterday. We live and we die and we still live and we still die. The song remains the same, indeed just as it is always changing. Paradox or dialectic, you toss the coin and decide.





'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.


Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.


Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.


Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.


Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.


British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.


Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".


In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.


Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.


Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.


Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.


Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.


'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.


Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.


From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.


Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.


Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".


On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.