Five paradigm-shifting tunes: Fela Kuti, White Load, & more
What if a song could change your perception of everything -- how you view yourself, others, the world?
And if a song could accomplish something like that, what sort of statement does that make about your sense of reality, of how mentally tenacious you were to begin with? My original concept for this week's column was "making your own reality, or unmaking someone else's," but I've decided instead to think about how these particular five songs might alter your day.
The most unabashedly "pop" thing I've heard yet from these Baltimore psychedelic warriors, and the good vibes come in waves - especially at the 2:00 mark when the crew shift some garage-rock gears and some dude busts out a wicked flute solo. Like the video itself: tye-dye color-saturated, jogging-in-place, Revolutionary Drug Brothers handshakes full of Sunshine Acid. There's some sort of love story happening here, but it's kind of besides the point the energy here is so wonderful. I mean, is it even possible to hear this song and come away more depressed than you were when you clicked play?
4. Chief Keef, "Bang"
It's icky, this whole Chief Keef thing. Not that he isn't an interesting MC on some level, and really, "Bang" hits the ear like a shit-ton of odds and ends -- cliched threats and taunts, Asberger's rants, random ad-libs, jagged ring tone/alarm clock pings, a second-rate Lex Luger beat -- fashioned into something almost potent and purposeful. The teenage Chicago rapper has a couple other songs out there, and they're all pretty good, but there's no denying the feeling -- in terms of the videos, anyway -- that you're gazing deeply into the eyes of a young man who's dead and knows it. How can you come away from this song without worrying a bit for humanity?
3. White Load, "Racist Joke"
Regardless of what you think of this Providence, Rhode Island trio's take on hardcore, the introduction to "Racist Joke" is so out-and-out asinine that it's hard to take them even remotely seriously, or even feel good what's going on here. I mean, that rant was almost longer than the song itself; the only degree to which my paradigm was shifted is that maybe I've had it with this kind of sonic grandstanding.
Note: "Just Like That" begins at around the 18:06 mark; this is a two and a half-hour long recording.
The opening track of Fela Kuti's forthcoming Live In Detroit, 1986 is a spiritedly rousing beast of muscular horns and pumping drums and synchronized chanting and clanging bells and somebody rocking an organ keyboard like the concert was a church service. Kuti's opening monologue -- "you're going your own way, minding your own business, didn't do shit, next thing you know, you're in prison - just like that" -- clearly resonated with his audience, and given the predominance of crack, the crumbling of the African-American middle class, and regressive judicial and policing policies, there probably didn't seem to be much difference between Nigeria and Detroit. Which you don't have to internalize at all to enjoy what's going on here - my wife's description is "James Bond 1960s flick fanfares" - unless maybe you want to think about it that way, or you're interested in learning more about Kuti's own unique life experience. Regardless, this is uplifting stuff -- a good way to start the morning. You may wind up believing that you really can conquer the world.
1. Lotus Plaza, "Come Back"
As you may or may not know, Lotus Plaza -- Deerhunter guitarist Lockett Pundt -- has a whole new album coming out in another month or two that's pretty good, but this is actually better by several orders of magnitude, kicking up tons of yearning and reverb for when the acoustic guitar/distorted electric guitar difference isn't enough to make "Come Back" feel massive and rewarding. You will a) be glad that, right now at least, there's nobody you have to beg to come back and b) you don't have to waste any more time with Parallax. You will also feel as though you were the recipient of an excellent cranial massage.
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