The Melvins commemorated their 30 years of existence as the single most consistent & recognizable troubadours of American metal and hardcore with a anniversary tour that summarized their entire career with key members of the band in-tact. Supported on this leg of their tour by the Southern metal group, Honky, the Melvins stormed into Slim’s and hit the crowd with a walloping set that reminded their loyal fans how vital their music is.
Buzz Osbourne, or King Buzzo, took the stage in a sort of spaced-themed muumuu with his signature hair now grayed but majestic as ever. One of the more admirable and larger-than-life figures I’ve ever seen live, his voice and chops were fully on-point as he tore through classics like “Hooch’ and “Lizzy”. The signature bruising rhythm-section was incredible, as well. Drummers Dale Crover and Coady Willis and bassist Jared Warren pounded through songs together, while Crover and Willis linked the setlist together with solo interludes and a bombastic outro.
The Melvins continue to be prolific, live and on record, with a covers album, Everybody Loves Sausages, released earlier this year and a new full-length with original member Mike Dillard, Tres Cabrones, due out in November.
James Mathé’s Barbarossa is quite an interesting and unique band. I realized this when getting into the first song of his new album called Bloodlines. One of the things he has said about the creation of his songs is that “ The best stuff usually comes when I’m hungover or not really thinking. The minute I try to be clever with words, it just sounds shit.” That is just brutal honesty right there and I love it! Emotion is the most important thing to me personally when expressing yourself; if you turn it into a practiced routine everything gets stale and the art suffers. This is not the only album James has done, his debut album Chemical Campfires released in 2008, since then he has gained notoriety as being one of the leading edge acoustic musicians in the British music scene.
Barbarossa is considered electronica, but doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard before due to the use of the acoustics he has within his album. The organ is just sooo funky! The use of the organ brings a haunting yet familiar tone to his works, it’s almost chilling and allows his lyrics to hit their target with even greater accuracy. In his first song entitled Bloodline he begins with the slow lead in of the organ followed by a drum beat. The rhythmic beat those two create really feels like a requiem that you would see at a funeral. I don’t think you would see many requiems these days but that doesn’t matter as this type of work is still prominent today, and as we see here it’s still used. Even though this may all seem sad it isn’t, the song’s lyrics speak of moving and carrying what you can with you. A positive message if I ever heard one. The load is more of something I would hear from electronica, but the beats definitely have more of a rock feel to them. I like how electronia bands are branching out and becoming a lot more varied than just the techno scene they were once known for. I for one never knew a lot of this was possible until the past few years when artists began to experiment with emulating what acoustic bands do. His lyrics are again powerful with a lesson about taking things for granted that we can all be accused of. Barbarossa seems to have taken a heavy tone with this album and is touching on some deep subjects. Another interesting piece of work is Battles, which makes use of the drum beat that imitates the battle drums of wars long past. Talk of silence amongst the physical confrontation of the song by both the lyrics and rhythm integrate here exceptionally well. The song emanates the feeling of loss and conflict quite well.
It’s always hard to catch problems with an album you like but we’re going to try anyways. I do feel his lyrics were a little weak and hard to understand in some songs, I had to look up what he actually said a couple of times. The organ that I love within many of his songs also does feel out of place here and there. I don’t think it was easy to incorporate it so that meant that there were a few mess-ups along the way. He did state however that he recorded this album on analog equipment because he intended there to be mess ups to increase the organic feel of the album.
Overall Bloodlines was a very good album, I enjoyed the uniqueness of the sound James Mathé has created. It has a funky and very fresh new look to electronica, at least here in the states. I would recommend this album to someone who is interested in fresh perspectives and deep thought when they listen to their music. Bloodlines is on sale now so go check it out!
Run The Jewels shook up the hip-hop arena when they released a 33 minute album with the biggest set of balls on it this year. When the first show at The Independent sold out, they opened it for another night. I was lucky to see their set on Tuesday night thanks to Jill from Another Planet Entertainment – many thanks for giving 402 access. Before diving right into the review, here’s a bit of history on how the hell Killer Mike and El-P ended up recording this collaboration together:
After El-P produced Killer Mike’s critically acclaimed “R.A.P. Music” – the two hit it off so well that they found enough common ground to mix their sounds into a new syringe. Initially El-P wasn’t planning on doing Killer Mike’s full record, as he was working on Cancer 4 Cure at the same time. But after phone calls from the studio, and Mike himself phoning daily, El-P broke down and dove in – discovering magic once the two went into the studio full time.
Killer Mike’s lyrics have always been socially conscious and rage-filled while El-P keeps his flow esoteric and abrasive. There’s a comfortable middle ground on this record as the two create tongue-in-cheek humor with a brooding seriousness.
El-P had Despot open, who still hasn’t released his album produced by Ratatat (obligatory shit for making us wait). He speaks like Mitch Hedberg and flipped a switch into sharp tongued flow. There was no doubt why El-P was promoting the hell out of this guy, and why fans are eagerly awaiting his debut. The set was a one-man-show with Despot controlling his own beats in between tracks and rapping over them. By the end of his set, he left San Francisco with the promise of a release very, very soon. We can hope!
Killer Mike took the stage to perform his solo material, and it was as raw and sincere as I’ve been told. In equal measure he rapped and talked about social injustice and localized movements in San Francisco – thanking the audience for being so progressive. At one point, he came into the audience and rattled off a verse that had the everyone huddling into a shoe gaze of goosebumps. I have a snippet on my cell phone, but said “fuck it”, I’d rather not watch it through my “retina screen” – eyes are better…ok, here’s the clip…
El-P came on next with a darker stage setup and brought out some old material along with the more screaming Cancer 4 Cure stuff. When “The Full Retard” skipped over the speakers, the place exploded like a grenade.
The real wait was for the two to join up on stage and, unlike other shows, they didn’t give anyone time to make bar runs. Before I could take another breath, the two came on stage and started their Run The Jewels material from track one. With chains placed over their heads like a proper English ceremony, they shook hands and began the slaughter. The two had constant nods to each other on stage as the energy and chemistry was incendiary – shoulder leaning, chain adjusting, and a Killer Mike on speed.
THE ALBUM REVIEW
402 Productions have been fans of El-P and Killer Mike’s work for a while, so when we heard about a collaboration album, we had high hopes. I was fortunate enough to take on this review and give my thoughts on what made it so special.
Run The Jewels flows through its 33 minute cycle without a single skip, and each play through brought out something new I hadn’t noticed before. By listen number 30, I was still finding myself throwing it on in the car and playing it through. The abrasiveness is cut with humor and absurdity, but not enough to make it a running joke. In fact, the flow is so strong that it sounds effortless with production that is some of the most dynamic and complex you’ll find. In this way, it was the antithesis to recent hip-hop. I want to mention Kanye West’s new album that was hailed (rightfully so) as being one to watch this year. I loved the auditory slam he was able to rap over as it was experimental and a departure into the dark. But after hearing Run The Jewels, it brought me back down to earth and made me realize that the production on the record was hiding some of the biggest flaws in the lyrics and fluidity. The list of producers is so long on Yeezus that it should be a David Foster Wallace novel. Not only did El-P and Killer Mike organize an audio slaughterhouse, but they created a lyrical dynamo in the same breath. Just another day in Brooklyn.
If two guys can pull off a record that is, as promised, “the most beef and broc on your fuckin’ block”, it makes you wonder what’s to be said of huge production teams behind an artist who sings about being a god…waiting for his damn croissants.
Run The Jewels is the heaviest record of the year, the most lyrically complex, and the most well produced. El-P has proven himself in the industry, and collaborating with Killer Mike not only showed his versatility, but how far he can raise the bar in a genre bloated with sameness. If you haven’t heard it, it’s cheaper than the white tee shirt Kanye was selling for over $100, because it’s free, and you’ll have it on repeat in your car for the rest of the year.
This was a reminder that good hip-hop is still evolving and pushing back against the mainstream cluster – even with a tweaking Miley Cyrus plaguing us on Vevo…unless you like that sort of thing. Hip-hop needed a slap to the face, and it was delivered so well that I’d be shocked to see someone challenge the skill. Big props to both artists for mixing a socially conscious message into a brilliant lyrical atmosphere.
I’m nominating Killer Mike and El-P’s collaboration “Run The Jewels” for the 2013 Album of the Year. Real talk.