With a Cape and a Cane
As the US sinks into a kill-crazed, semi-fascist state, music continues to be taken to the mat. Dissention in lyrics becomes "un-American"; folks still grumble about them damn dyke Dixie Chicks; and Middle Eastern music is considered to be by a lotta people smart enough to know better the "sounds of the enemy." Given that, the new Joggers starts off with a gorgeous, exotic tangle of arabesque sound, its Middle Eastern scales twisting and descending. It made me sit up from the couch where I was glowering at the clock that read 8 AM and say, "whoa!" out loud, suddenly 100 percent awake.
It felt subversive (which is lame; it really shouldn't), but it also felt gloriously unexpected, a totally unpredictable way to start a dance-punk record, which are usually so ironbound in their rules and stuffy (read: White) to the point of being stultifying. But Cape and a Cane continues to throw curves as it moves through its 10 tracks: The punchy starts and stops on the second song; laptop IDM leading into a heavy, plodding groove on "Era Prison"; the tuneless, wonderfully dorky sing-along on "Night of the Horsepills"; "Yawning Brahmins," which sounds like Moving Units plus Genesis with a belly fulla valium. This is a great record. ADAM GNADE
The Joggers celebrate their CD release Tues Sept 27 at Berbati's Pan, 10 SW 3rd.
In the golden, distortion-drenched kingdom of Indierock Heaven, there is a chair right next to his Lord and Savior awaiting the arrival of Mac McCaughan. When he's not heading up the amazing Merge Label—home for oh, Neutral Milk Hotel, Lou Barlow, Richard Buckner, and practically every other barely fringe musician that makes my groin tickle in delight—he's putting out an a steady stream of quality rock/pop either with the legendary Superchunk or his "side project" Portastatic. McCaughan's attributes are substantial: a dense, hoarse vocal style that tucks itself into your craw like a sugary wedge of Bubblelicious and refuses to leave, and a gritty mastery of the craft of songwriting. Portastatic's last effort, 2003's raw collection of covers and originals, Autumn Was a Lark, slayed me with its energy and scratchy guitar exuberance. Bright Ideas is a slightly mellower and glossier affair, but with no shortage of McCaughan's signature hooks, both melodic and lyrical. "The Soft Rewind," with its tenderly fuzzy chorus, "You called it a stunning sunset/I called it the last of the good light" is a textbook example of nostalgic romantic pop. And the closing track "Full of Stars" warms the heart with strains of violin and piano as McCaughan croons sweetly, "There's an ocean in your ears/It might take seven seas full of salty water/to wash away your tears." McCaughan makes it look so easy it's almost possible to take him for granted. Don't. JUSTIN WESCOAT SANDERS
Portastatic plays Sat Sept 24 at Berbati's Pan, 10 SW 3rd.
Kronos Quartet and Asha Bhosle
You've Stolen My Heart: Songs from R.D. Burman's Bollywood
There's something fascinating about the absorption and manipulation of musical styles between cultures; one side takes the sound and brilliantly vandalizes it until another audience comes along and leaves their mark, and so on and so on. The results of this age-old game offer an interesting glimpse into the chaotic movements of musical styles between people, places, and times.
R.D. Burman—best known for his works in the '70s—was a pioneering Bollywood musical director whose own aesthetic reflected the cultural movements of the era. Burman's method was something quite familiar to us now: He borrowed and deployed musical idioms from jazz, flamenco, psychedelia, and other sounds that were beginning to penetrate national boundaries on a popular level. He absorbed as much as possible, and coaxed it into conversation with Indian film music. He collaborated often with the endlessly celebrated Bollywood singer Asha Bhosle (she's the most recorded artist in human history, and was also Burman's wife and muse). The Kronos Quartet uses this album to do their own fussing with Burman's musical hybrids. Joined by the now older but somehow even more alluring voice of Bhosle, they successfully cake another layer of meaning onto an increasingly complex musical phenomenon. EVAN JAMES
My Machine, Princess Superstar's fifth album, is a futuristic mockumentary of the artist as an obsessive fame seeker. It's really just a thinly veiled conceit, however, an excuse to wax ad infinitum about celebrity, sex, money, and power.
Princess Superstar, who was recently named by New York magazine as one of the Big Apple's 50 most beautiful people, has been making distinctly feminine rap records like this for nearly a decade. Much of her current notoriety, however, stems from her reinvention as a trashy electro(clash) personality, vocalizing on tracks such as Disco D's "Fuck Me on the Dancefloor," and performing as one-half of the tag-team duo DJs Are Not Rock Stars. There is more dance music on My Machine than her previous efforts, thanks to beats from Armand Van Helden, Junior Sanchez, Arthur Baker, and Jacques Lu Cont. Otherwise, Princess Superstar's formula remains unchanged—her familiar motormouth delivery and aggressive intellect fuels a nonstop stream of wit throughout this hour-plus disc.
Much like the works of her one-time influence Kool Keith, Princess Superstar's My Machine is best absorbed as a self-contained piece, unrestrained by the expectations of what a rap or dance album should sound like. Some of its songs, particularly "Bad Girls NYC" and on "On Top Bubble," are extremely effective satire, though the disc does falter near the end when she's forced to wrap up the "storyline." MOSI REEVES