Thursday, January 11, 2007

Seven Deadly Singles #38: Looking For The Perfect Beat

In all popular music, even in indie-rock, with the likes of CSS and Hot Chip at the helm of some kind of movement, it's clear that everyone still only wants a revolution if they can pat their foot to it, so here's seven songs from 2006 that I suspect somebody, somewhere, danced to at some point.

Dem Franchise Boyz - "Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It"

Ah, yes. Snap music. This must be what it sounds like, because it snaps, crackles and pops with a crunch that the "Laffy Taffy" guys (who were they again?) didn't have the budget for. The creeping synth whooshes, bloops and bleeps provide that "Get Low" tough while the chorus goons shout a hook I'm not likely to forget so fast. It's easy to see why this has the South all jittery, what with its "mini" sounds and clicks juxtaposed perfectly with low-ass grumble-shouts less ugly-sounding than Lil' Jon's, but while the least I expect is a couple more good singles like this, the trends will shift again before you can say "hyphy." B+

Beyonce - "Irreplaceable"

Finally, it took our generation's R&B singles queen to humanize those tinny old 808 beatboxes everyone seems to be using again even though they, for the most part, sound like shit. They don't, however, disturb the song's MTV Unplugged-ready strumming and even better, those lyrics! B's always good for a quote or buzzword like "bootylicious" or "baby boy," but finally, here's a complex and impeccably-sung get-out-of-my-house breakup stinger her hooks have been waiting for since "Bug A Boo," which was funny and clever then, but sounds like kids' stuff compared to these nuances: "I could have another you in a minute/And in fact, he'll be here in a minute." Ouch. If we're lucky, she'll scare Sean Carter into making another good record with talk like that. A

Cham - "Ghetto Story"

We get it, it's your story, so talk, already. But this hiccupy toaster has a somewhat arresting delivery, if you can remember Chip Fu from 90s rap casualties the Fu-Schnickens' wheezy oeuvre. The buzzy videogame squirts provide forward motion, often missing in reggaeton's clunky rhythm jerks. But while I'd rather hear him talk than Daddy Yankee, I can remember what "Gasolina" sounds like, and this one's still a little fuzzy after a few plays. B-

Cassie - "Me & U"

Ah yes, the R&B hit where the unique beat is everything and the singer is merely cooing sexual decor. Christina Millian's "Dip It Low" proved this shit doesn't always work, Amerie's glorious "1 Thing" proved it does. This isn't even good phone sex though; spareness like this is negligible laziness when Lil' Wayne isn't freestyling over it, and laughable when tinny Moog lines hook it to an irritating sound that brings Neil Young's failed techno experiment, Trans, to mind. How sexy is that? C-

Hot Chip - "Over And Over"
CSS - "Alala"

The Strokes. Hate 'em. Well, no. . .I just hate how a band that ordinary, though solid, got so much attention for "spearheading" the garage rock movement, when the likes of the Willowz, the Ponys, Be Your Own Pet, the Fever and so on, all bands with identities and more interesting records, didn't get their due in the great hype window. So just like I "think" I hate the Strokes, I'm inevitably gonna lump all my bitterness about these two dancey phenomenas making year-end lists over the Rapture into one convenient little space. Hot Chip I'll merely dismiss as this year's !!! or Daft Punk, competent, acclaimed acts with no discernable reason to live. They sound like XTC goes house, which no one should want to hear. They know some interesting sounds, like jingle bells and organ vamps, work well on the floor, but their attempt at a Rapture-style countdown or marching feedback guitar solo sounds so amateurish and awkward I only want to dance to it out of pity. Fun it is not. CSS have a little more edge and fuzz, which means they don't attempt anything funkier than straight, metronomic and unshuffled 4/4, as if they were a garage rock band with some oontz-oontz synth throbs to bump up the bass. I may well end up humming their song if its potentially-annoying electro found its way into an inescapable car commercial, say. But over both of these I'd head to The Rapture's "Whoo! Alright--Yeah. . .Uh-Huh," a predictably great dance single that I won't even bother to review because I've already said how great the Rapture is. But don't believe the hype. "Over And Over": C+; "Alala": B

Clipse - "Mr. Me Too"

Actually, this is the only thing here I can't see anyone dancing to. The Neptunes get way too much credit for their "innovative" minimal productions, but I much prefer their full-blooded invasions, like Mystikal's "Bouncin' Back" or these guys' own "Wamp Wamp," an excellent, earth-shaking anomaly on the otherwise austere Hell Hath No Fury, which I respect as much as anyone else but rather prudishly admit I find it a bit hard to listen to. It certainly has its share of striking juxtapositions, which certainly aren't always that pleasurable to hear. Take this fuck-you-Jive choice for a single, whose entire beat consists of a dying hiss-synth, ding-ding electro toms, and the occasional inexplicable tambourine loop, over bmmfs and chhhs so harsh and quick you'd think they were sampled from Amnesiac. I have no beef with the rap; Pusha T and Malice are without a doubt the best tag-team in music now that Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein are retired to their suburban Portland homes, so don't they deserve better than Pharrell knockoffs that straddle the line between "minimal" and "lazy"? And saying they straddle the line is being kind. B

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