Monday, July 11, 2005

P, VII

Princess Superstar- s/t

Princess Superstar is this super-tech female hip-hop MC who, like Paul Barman, has the seemingly mutant power to seamlessly cram half a zillion syllables into meters where three or four would fit. Her record is full of dense, funny lyrics, and she’s not afraid to talk about sex, either. Didja notice how many guys got huge boners about Liz Phair because she sang about blowjobs and such? Jesus, the indie-hop community musta gotten in the cold shower after listening to this one.

I was worried because the first few songs on the record have a tendency to find the least interesting parts and use ‘em as choruses, repeat the dullest bit a few times too many. I was happy to discover that it’s just the first few.

Kool Keith kameo (sorry, too easy) is pretty funny and cool. Probably went like this:

‘Kool Keith?’

‘You got the wrong guy.’

‘What is it that you’re calling yourself this week?’

‘Professor Fudge.’

‘Sorry. Hey, Professor Fudge!’

‘What up?’

‘Can you do a cameo on a record?’

‘Professor Fudge don’t do cameos!’

‘It’s on Princess Superstar’s record.’

‘Never heard of him.’

‘He’s a girl, Fudge.’

‘Why didn’t you fucking SAY SO? Where’s my bathrobe?’

‘I think you left it in the porn wing.’

‘Right!’

Promise Ring- Nothing Feels Good

I used to do a lot of record reviews for fanzines back in the days before I decided that I’d try and be a novelist. (This space reserved for comment.) The main problem with reviewing records continues to be that there are so many bands that are totally solid yet completely unremarkable. There were days where it broke my heart, getting big mailers full of stuff for review, knowing that the bands were sweating blood and working umpteen shitty jobs to finance a vision which just didn’t grab me in any way other than a slight shrug and a jaunt through the mental rolodex to figure out which genre I could lump their CD or single into.

Anyway, I was totally psyched to get the first Promise Ring record for review, slightly prior to their elevation to the status of emo deities. Loved that first full length, saw ‘em play a great show with Texas Is The Reason, saw ‘em get their sorry, lispy asses kicked all over the Elvis Room by Stricken for Catherine. I still bought the next record, though, a collection of singles that left me underwhelmed. By then, the Promise Ring backlash started- a movement I was more than happy to take part in. They were such easy targets, jeez.

It all changed, though, when I was passed a mix tape that started off with ‘Is This Thing On,’ the first song on ‘Nothing Feels Good.’ The fucking tune would get in my head and stick there for days on end with each listen- there was nothing I could do but cave into the pop and buy the damn album, even though by that point I was freely talking shit about the band and how wussy/emo they were. Lo and behold, between their debut and second albums the Promise Ring dropped all the sap that made them intolerable, shifting their focus to big, strumming pop songs with nonsense lyrics, the very ditties that were so charming on their first slab.

Propagahndi- Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes

Deep in the thick of the pop-punk era, Propagahndi was something of a revelation. All of the heavy hitters were playing songs about girls, scene politics and junkfood, whoah-oh-oh-oh-oh. We can argue six ways to Sunday about who was at the top of the heap in the mid-nineties and get a zillion different, regional answers. For the sake of argument, though, it can safely be positied that NOFX was a huge fuckin’ band, wildly talented and influential. The band’s singer/bassist, Fat Mike, was the first guy I can remember to put out free label samplers. An amazing idea, as it turns out- the novelty of getting a CD filled with good-to-great songs drove all the kids to the record stores to further investigate the bands featured.

Propagahndi probably profited the most from the release of the free ‘Fat Music For Fat People’ sampler. Here was a band that had the same goofy sense of humor as NOFX, but tempered it with scathing leftist commentary and musical chops that were some of the craziest the scene had ever encountered- none of this one-four-five shit for them, no way. Rants against homophobes, big business, and government were delivered with enough tongue in cheek to ensure that the act never came across as all that preachy despite the obvious bile that was fueling the attacks. Album notes featured little essays expounding on the topics on the album. Reading lists, too. Add to all this the fact that the band didn’t tour too often (at least not here on the Right Coast), which instilled a sort of instant apocrypha about their live sets. Amazing.

By the time that ‘Empires’ came out, my politics had gelled. I didn’t need a record telling me about the injustices in the world. Still, though, the band continued to evolve politically, never resting on laurels, taking shots at the scandals and injustices that had surfaced since the last album was recorded. They maintain and keep getting the kids to investigate the filth for themselves, all without signing to Sony.

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