Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Chemical Brothers album is endearingly clueless, like they've been living in 1997 for the past eight years and won't let anyone tell them that the world is a different place now. (Q-Tip! On the single! In 2005!) It's oddly nice in a comfort-food/security -blanket way, and it sounds perfect on my headphones walking to the library and Taco Bell on an unseasonably warm and sunny day in February while the snow melts into little rivulets all over downtown Baltimore. The Chemicals have some sort of innate gift for this sort of thing; they know exactly when they're starting to repeat the vocal sample too many times, so they toss in a wicked conga break or some British dork rapping to keep things interesting. And oddly it ends up sounding derivative but not dated; they stick to the modus operandi they've been pimping for five albums now, but that modus operandi is not really all that far removed from, like, Out Hud. And "Hold Tight London" and "Surface to Air" might not be as great as some of their older woozy bleary elastic widescreen weightless wing-walking zone-outs, but they're both a whole hell of a lot better than the new M83 album. Too bad the album cover practically screams, "We are old and irrelevant like the Crystal Method or something! Please feel free to disregard us!"

I was getting pretty sick of Lil Jon ("Girlfight" is ass), but he pulls out a couple of neat new tricks on Southern Smoke 16. Game's "Throw It Up" has this ominous mournful noir foghorn tuba with relentless muted tack-tack drums; it's sad and dark and beat-down and bedraggled. But it's not as good as Shauna K's "Dance", this amazing retro electro-freestlye 80s throwback R&B jam with vocoders and Miami-bass rapping and staccato synths and drums. It's like "Jam the Box" or something, beautiful insistent Miami Vice shit with more going on than you first notice. Lil Jon would really be on to something new here if he'd just stop fucking screaming. But he may not be quite done yet, which is more than I can say for David Banner, whose new trick is apparently metal guitar.