Mayhem to the AM: Eminem Goes Berzerk

I turned my head for a minute and Eminem dropped this single “Berzerk” from his forthcoming record. The song illustrates everything I love about Hip-hop. It’s not that I miss the era he’s referencing here (I don’t), it’s that he’s referencing things: All kinds of things. Mathers’ use of allusion is masterful, and it’s one of the reasons I study rap in the first place.

Eminem’s sense of humor and of himself is firmly intact. “Berserk” boasts guest shots from and references to “So Whatcha Want?”, Royce da 5’9″, Rick Rubin, Billy Squier’s “The Stroke,” Public Enemy, N.W.A., Kendrick Lamar, Ad Rock, and Kid Rock. It’s a celebration of roots: from rap and rock to the city block [runtime: 4:20].

ab9176Srb5Y

More than anything else, Em gets his Beastie Boys on here. Because they, more than anyone else, encompass all of the things going on in this song. Rubin employs his standard formula, which he once described as “reduction” rather than “production.” It’s heard on early LL Cool J records like “Rock the Bells” (1985), Run-DMC tracks like “Rock Box” (1983), “King of Rock” (1984), and the Run-DMC/Aerosmith collaboration “Walk This Way” (1986), and reprised on Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” (2003). But the Beasties’ Licensed to Ill (1986) is the best exemplar. Rubin stripped everything down to just the boom bap: 808s, John Bonham drums, big guitar riffs, and the noises and voices of the boys. The result was resonant and irresistible — and it still works.

The new record, The Marshall Mathers LP2 comes out next week.

My Bit on mbv on Reality Sandwich

I wrote a tiny, little bit about My Bloody Valentine’s recently released mbv for Reality Sandwich. Many thanks to Ken Jordan, Daniel Pinchbeck, and Faye Sakellaridis for the opportunity to blab about one of my current favorite records by one of my all-time favorite bands.

My Bloody Valentine: mbv

Here’s an excerpt:

With nine songs total, mbv is a trilogy of trilogies. It hangs together as a whole, but one can easily discern three movements. Three floes in the waves. The first set of three songs pulls you in with perhaps the poppiest sounds on the record. Theirs is a sweet stupor recalling the most sugary spots of Loveless. The second set is hypnotic in its lack of dynamics. This is the bed of shards upon which you will sleep. Set three, starting with “In Another Way,” my favorite track so far, brings all the characteristic My Bloody Valentine traits into play. The walls and waves of guitar and the buried but beautifully breathy vocals, as well as the hooks and beats. The whole record builds to “Wonder 2,” which will finish you off nicely.

Read the full list here.

My Bloody Valentine: Here Come the Drones

mbvThe figureheads of an entire subgenre of modern rock music, My Bloody Valentine is the only band in history to make a career out of not releasing a record.

Following the likes of Glenn Branca, Band of Susans, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Phil Specter, and Alan Moulder, as well as the core sound associated with Alan McGee’s Creation Records, My Bloody Valentine became a genre unto themselves with their second full-length record. Released on November 4th, 1991, Loveless was Kevin Shields’ self-proclaimed masterpiece and few have disagreed with that designation. Its sultry vocals buried in layers of guitars launched a thousand imitators as it became one of the most influential records of the 1990s.

After Loveless came out, The Stone Roses waited five years to release a great follow-up record and everyone hated it. The Britpop of the era hadn’t been much for following-up on its initial brilliance. As of last night, My Bloody Valentine has finally tried. They’ve delayed this record so many times that most of us doubted it would ever happen, yet according to the server load on their website last night, they found what the world was waiting for.

My Bloody 503 Error

It’s difficult to say what any of us expected from a follow-up, but wearing out the Reload button on our web browsers probably wasn’t one of them. Regardless, mbv is apt. It’s noisy and beautiful in the way that all of their records are, and in that way that only they can seem to do.

It’s also still sinking in. Upon a day or so of listening, I can definitely say that I like it. I’m glad it’s here. It seems choppier and less seductive than Loveless, perhaps less love than Loveless. It’s thornier, worn down, weary, and gives less of a fuck. One thing’s still for damn sure: No one does this sound better than My Bloody Valentine.

For example, here’s “In Another Way” from mbv, which I could listen to all day [runtime: 5:32]:

6oXJus1ajIU

In the meantime, Loveless has been lauded, applauded, imitated, reissued, copied, covered, and worshipped. In 2007, Athens, Georgia’s Japancakes did an all-instrumental cover album of the whole thing. Here’s their version of “Only Shallow” [runtime: 8:57]:

zjDs37Ya6ks

As if anticipating the stars’ alignment, a couple of other MBV-related projects have emerged more recently. A little over a week ago, Japan’s High Fader Records released a Loveless tribute album called Yellow Loveless, which is much, much better than similar send-ups usually are. Tokyo Shoegazer’s two covers sound damn well indistinguishable from the originals, Lemon’s Chair stay true to their two entries as well, Shonen Knife evoke the girl-group roots of shoegazing pop on their version of “When You Sleep,” and the mighty Boris do a slowly crushing but primarily faithful rendition of “Sometimes.” Goatbed stray the furthest from the original “Loomer,” making it almost all their own. But the real gem here is Sinobu Narita’s “Blown a Wish,” which takes the original to dreamy new heights. Here’s Yellow Loveless in full [runtime: 1:01:25]:

Lbf8h3sykiw

In a slightly more experimental vein, Bullet for My Bloody Valentine is an hour-long drone-fest released late last year that makes its source material sound downright poppy. As described on the project’s Bandcamp page, the record is made up of “tracks taken from My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless and Bullet For My Valentine’s The Poison slowed down, the best bits cut out and layered on top of each other to create some sort of droney noise album.” It sounds nothing like either record, and it’s actually quite nice.

So, MBV fever is at an all-time high, but it’s hard to say if mbv will be judged well considering its predecessor and the decades in between. I for one aim to ignore the inevitable backlash that’s been germinating for the twenty-one year wait and enjoy the new My Bloody Valentine record. Finally.

————-

P.S. Be on the lookout for an entry in Scott Heim‘s The First Time I Heard… book series on My Bloody Valentine, including an essay about my first time.

Tom Waits: By Demons Be Driven

Somewhere in a dark corner of rock and roll’s junkyard, there’s a carnival going on. An old white blues man is noisily trying to shake off his demons. His once-shiny suit is dusty from the melee, and the twisted metal of his soul is on display. As a crowd gathers in the night, the carnie growls in delight. That ol’ devil’s got ‘im in fevers and fits, howling his gospel to any and all who’ll listen. Continue reading “Tom Waits: By Demons Be Driven”