Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Critical Beatdown: Round 9

Grinderman, "Heathen Child"
NS: Though I'm disappointed that the version of "Heathen Child" featuring Robert Fripp has yet to make the Internet rounds, there's enough to dig here in the meantime, most obviously Grinderman's patented lascivious groove. Not an immediate classic (it kind of meanders), but Cave sings and everyone else plays at the top of their game. 3.5/5

AM: There's something not quite right about "Heathen Child." On the one hand, if this evil boogie moved onto your block, you wouldn't let your children play near it. On the other, there's too much build up, not enough release. 3.5/5

Panda Bear, "Slow Motion"
NS: I like this more than "Bros," actually. Certainly, the beat is snappier than AC/Panda Bear fans are probably accustomed to (I predict a Kanye sample in 2011). And the timbre is as lush as we have come to expect from Mr. Bear. 4/5

AM: The stuttery, head-snapping rhythm recalls Madlib, of all people, while the reverb soaked, chant-y vocals do indeed achieve a state of suspended animation. A song like this doesn't go anywhere because it doesn't need to. 4/5

Bethany Cosentino, Kid Cudi and Rostam Batmanglij, "All Summer"
NS: This collabo between Best Coast's singer, Vampire Weekend's lead guitarist and the erstwhile Transformers soundtracker strikes me as a perfect summer jam to play on repeat in hell. Alternating between Cudi's awkward non-verses (which kind of linger without significant accompaniment) and Cosentino's vacuous chorus, it shouldn't surprise anyone that this travesty was written for a Converse commercial. 0.5/5

AM: Music so meaningless as to render any judgment of quality moot. 2.5/5

Marnie Stern "For Ash"
NS: Marnie's latest is as riff-tastic as ever, a mini-suite of furious strumming, chanting and fret-tapping (an area in which Stern really distinguishes herself--Battles aside, she's probably the best in the biz). While there's no reason to think this couldn't have been on her last album, the charm remains intact. 4.5/5

AM: She yelps like Avey Tare, and this song taps into the prismatic melodies of Animal Collective's best work. Marnie and her guitar get there in their own fashion, shelving the abrasive, metallic sound she usually favors for a fleetness that allows "For Ash" to sprint along in spasmodic bliss. 4.5/5

Eminem feat. Rihanna, "Love The Way You Lie"
NS: I don't want to accuse Rihanna of attempting to benefit from her won experiences with domestic abuse, but I wonder why she felt the need to lend her voice to yet another one of Eminem's hyperviolent, self-loathing rants, narrated by a repentant Chris Brown type. Even if the tone was different, the song is still junk: if this beat isn't another jack from Dido, it might as well be. 1.5/5

AM: I get that Eminem likes to rap in character, and I realize Rihanna is on an edginess offensive. But the moronic "twist" here makes my stomach churn for all the wrong reasons. Sonically, it offers nothing that that Plan B album didn't in 2006, when he was ripping off Eminem. 1.5/5

Estelle Feat. Nas, "Fall In Love"
NS: "American Boy" goodwill will only get you so far. This song is obviously meant to evoke that 2008 classic, down to the basic rhythm of the thing and the way her voice dips down when singing the title. What's weirder is that, in addition, Nas basically parrots Kanye's part. 3/5

AM: "American Boy" was better the first time around. Every aspect of this song is about 60% as infectious as it was on that one. 3/5

Fucked Up "Year Of The Ox"
NS: That a 13-minute punk track doesn't run out of ideas halfway through is, already, triumphant. That said track manages to throw in some lovely string passages and at least a half-dozen great guitar lines suggests overwhelming talent and ambition. This whopper of a rock tune might even top COCL's greatest moments. 5/5

AM: My original "Ox" write-up noted that the violin is too sugary, that the guitars never accumulate their pummeling sheen. Which is true. But then I listened to it five more times, and realized: with a sound this huge--and "Ox" sounds massive, even for Fucked Up--singling out one element misses the point. "Year Of The Ox" just keeps growing, oblivious to its own imperfections, until it encompasses a handful of moments as transcendent as any in the band's catalog. 4/5

Let's Wrestle "I'm So Lazy"
NS: Heavy shades of GBV here, which I cannot stress enough is not necessarily a good thing. The singer's voice seems distractingly off at times, and I probably wouldn't have noticed that if "I'm So Lazy" was two minutes shorter. It ain't exactly harmful, but still... 2.5/5

AM: The charm and hooks that colored Let's Wrestle's debut are blessedly present, albeit in somewhat shorter supply. The sloth extends to the tempo, but churning power-pop is always a good thing, even when it's sluggish. 3.5/5

Monday, July 26, 2010

Public School Teachers Have Opinions About Music, Too

You know something that the Washington press corps and the Brooklyn music-crit cognoscenti have in common? They both get bugs up their respective asses whenever non-professionals decide to try out what they (Washington/Brooklyners) do. If you've been following this whole story about the backlash against Andrew Breitbart's recent hit piece on Shirley Sherrod, for instance, you've probably seen a few articles or newscasts to the tune of "disrespectful bloggers and anonymous commenters attempting journalism HARUMPH!" Or, to put it another way, you get a lot of tsk-tsking about the state of our current (admittedly mindless) political discourse from the type of people who assiduously avoid asking politically harmful questions in the face of two mounting wars, the type of people who furthermore have no trouble quoting anonymous hearsay from a few former journo pals.

Music critics are a similarly cagey bunch (in the sense of "this is my cage it is for me only get the fuck out"), especially in Brooklyn. Some strike me as little more than click-hungry starfuckers, as a matter of fact. And they seem to be more in the business than ever of mocking the opinions of average New Yorkers. This post isn't meant to name names (maybe someday I'll compile a list), but I'd like to point to a recent (admittedly jokey) example of this sort of tribalism here.

What we have here is a piece posted on Sound of the City, a Village Voice blog, written by critic Rob Harvilla, entitled "New York Magazine's 'Jukebox' Feature Returns To Mercilessly Antagonize Us Once Again." It's an insider-y thing about the return of a running feature in New York magazine in which three New York denizens/music fans are asked to rate recent releases on a ten-point scale. Needless to say, Harvilla finds the opinions of Mike the Lawyer, 31, James the Literary Agent, 60, and Nicole the Public School Teacher, 30, to be hopelessly banal:
Your answers are "Big Boi is probably the best M.C. in the game," "The whole album gets you up on your feet," and "I know that if I heard some of these songs in a club, it would put me in a good mood, ready to dance, because the melodies and beats are great," respectively. Further indignities are visited upon Francis and the Lights ("It put me in a let's-go-out-and-have-frozen-yogurt-and-figure-out-what- we-are-going-to-do-tonight mood"), Sheryl Crow ("The record made me feel introspective and positive about life"), and you, oh lover of half-literate rock writing, left with no recourse but to invent future very probably apocryphal New Yorker stereotypes: The Surly Hot Dog Vendor, the Gurgling Baby in a Park Slope Stroller, the Guy From the Bronx We Were Too Scared to Actually Talk To, The Otherwise Exemplary NYC Publication That Needs An Actual Full-Time Music Critic, Like, Five Years Ago.
Let's be fair: Harvilla isn't actually trying to imply that only those with proper training are allowed to discuss or write about music (no professional critic would argue something that pompous and self-aggrandizing! [wait never mind]). His problem would be, at least I hope, that New York Magazine has a New York Times-like problem of soliciting only the opinions and views of upper-class Manhattanites. On one level he could be arguing something important: that maybe the Features editors of metropolitan newspapers or magazines could look a little beyond their own communities, perhaps interview a 24-year old meat packer from Harlem, say, rather than another 60-year old literary agent. If this feature was more than a day old (and I know it used to exist in a different form), and that's the kind of thing New York kept doing, then there would be an excellent idea for a blog piece.

But that doesn't seem to be his main beef. His problem is with the opinions of the citizen journalists themselves. Voice critics may disagree with Plebeian #1's assertion that "Big Boi is probably the best in the game," and that might not be the kind of thing that would make it through the copy desk (and how could it be true, after all, if Drake's album just went platinum?), but it's not that absurd of a statement, and in truth he could probably make as good a case in the affirmative as any Rob Harvilla could in the negative. This is exactly the type of Armond White behavior that paints criticism as a whole in a self-satisfied, bitchy light. Mike the Lawyer might be a lawyer, perhaps even a rich, evil lawyer, but it says in the article that he got his ass beat for defending Pet Sounds, and in my mind that affords him more legit rock cred than writing for the Voice. More importantly, Mike, James and Nicole all seem to like entirely different kinds of music, which again puts it ahead, diversity-wise, of the Voice (certainly, Harvilla and co. would never describe themselves as mainly fans of "classic and indie rock").

They could be regular-ass white people with boring lives and boring jobs, but you can be surprised by how genuine and affecting boring white people's love for music can be, how life-changing it may have been in certain situations, even if otherwise they don't have the time or the compunction to constantly go to shows or decode the latest nonsense spouted by MIA.

In other words, Rob the Music Critic, 27*: I have no beef with you or the types of artists you like to listen to. And in truth I don't know much about "apocryphal New York stereotypes," nor am I much interested in finding out (when I go to NYU, I plan to cover my ears and scream loudly whenever the subject is mentioned). But I don't see how you can find Jukebox to be a bad idea in chrysalis. Citizen criticism is all over the Web: it's what you're reading right now. Some of it's getting to be pretty good. Some of it (gasp) could be written by lawyers.

*I made up Harvilla's age so I could put that writerly bullshit above. Sorry.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Conjectures Of The Bored And Old

Kurt Cobain was the world's greatest music fan. It's not a part of his legend, and I'm not sure it needs to be, but his cultish love of rock music is evident to anyone who's ever read an interview with him. Even today, it's rare to see Cobain favorites like the Vaselines, Melvins, Meat Puppets, or Raincoats discussed without a mention of his name. Those bands were hardly the extent of his fandom, as he was also obsessed with Daniel Johnston, Pixies, Half Japanese the Beatles, and K Records. That's just off the top of my head, there's dozens of other bands he was a vocal supporter of.

But what effect did these artists have on Cobain? It's unclear. Peers and predecessors did influence Nirvana's decision to sign to Geffen. They were courted by Sonic Youth, and Cobain looked towards R.E.M. as a band that made the major label jump without sacrificing their credibility or vision.* The move still seems to have been torturesome, for Cobain, at least, in part because of his devotion to some of the most obstinately underground acts.

It does seem peculiar, however, that the singer/guitarist for a band with great debts to 70's hard rock spent so much time worrying if he was deviating from the way of the Pastels and Shonen Knife. I wonder if he spent more time promoting the Vaselines than Led Zeppelin simply because they were far more obscure. His habit of talking up his favorite bands, and wearing their t-shirts, may too have been a strategy to deflect attention, less artful but probably cooler than the solution Bob Dylan came up with when he was branded the voice of a generation he didn't belong to.

All of which begs the question: was Nirvana actually better than any of the bands Cobain adored? It's a matter of taste, of course, but I like most of the bands mentioned in this post as least as much as I like Nirvana. Nirvana isn't particularly in vogue these days, probably a result of years of sub-Nirvana modern rock acts with heavy debts to grunge. And there may be a critical shift away from Nevermind, after years of seeing that album near the top of every critic's poll--as Chris Molanphy wrote in an Idolator column from that site's glory days that I can't find--towards In Utero. It resembles the relatively recent preference in those polls for Revolver over Sgt. Pepper's.

So while it's difficult not to blame Cobain the musician for Creed and Bush, Kurt the music fan had peerless (if quite narrow) taste. He wasn't shy about discussing it, or even covering and working with his heroes. He helped bring exposure to artists who otherwise might have received very little, an act that carried greater weight in the days before the internet. Kurt Cobain still deserves to be remembered as a talented and influential musician, but he was also a guy with some of the best taste in the history of the world.

*If Cobain had been able to travel ahead a few years in time and hear Around The Sun, would he have made the same decision?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sir Lucious Beatdown

On Tuesday, Atlanta rapper Big Boi released his solo debut, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty. To mark the occasion, Rockaliser combines its Critical Beatdown and track-by-track features to take a close look at the album.

1. Feel Me (Intro)
AM: "Damn, that wasn't nothing but the intro," intones Big Boi, half of sorely missed rap duo OutKast, at the end of Sir Lucious Left Foot's opener. As hip-hop intros go, this one has the feel of a classic, a dense, heavy funk cut with no rapping, but plenty of talkbox. 4.5/5

NS: Definitely one of the best rap intros I've heard in years (faint praise, that), and one of the few I can think of that actually seems too short upon first listen. Though this catchy banger seems to have its roots in the oversaturated piano riffs of the 1990s (think Dr. Dre), it pitches a consistent vibe, complementing an album full of similarly epic productions. The whistling is a perfect touch, giving this track a bit of a Morricone vibe, never a bad thing. 3.5/5

2. Daddy Fat Sax
AM: Buzzing with a wonderful clarity, "Daddy Fat Sax" is musically very busy, but nicely mixed, allowing each of its many constituent parts room to breathe. I could devote a post to the lovely details that producer Mr. DJ, a longtime OutKast cohort, throws in, but I'll limit myself the thumps and scratches that open the track, and the brief hush at the beginning of the third verse. And the rapping? Peerless--Big is one of the greats. 5/5

NS: The first of what will be many exemplary album tracks (did I call it, or what?), "Daddy Fat Sax" is close to becoming my new theme song. With nary a pause for breath, Big matches the booming, boisterous musical accompaniment phrase-for-phrase, literally leaping over his next set of words, spitting ideas of uncertain length at dazzling speed. I don't know how any sane person could ever be bored of this song, especially the way the beat bounces back at 1:49. 4.5/5

3. Turns Me On feat. Sleepy Brown & Joi
AM: Sleepy Brown joins serene keyboards and some slightly more forceful percussion for what can only be called a sex jam. Big Boi exudes a calm confidence, sidestepping the crassness of most such jams. Are the vocals slightly sped up, McCartney-style? 4.5/5

NS: Big takes a turn for the Outkastian--augmented as he often is by singing cohort Sleepy Brown--his helium-soaked verses an ideal match for this slightly more minimal (but still groovy) number. There's something even jazzy about those tinkling keyboards, and it works surprising wonders with the clipped sound of the bass and drums. Clearly, Big Boi is not even close to running out of ideas just yet. Music like this, there's no other word but just freaky. 4.5/5

4. Follow Us feat. Vonnegutt
No idea where Big Boi found Vonnegutt, who don't even have a Wikipedia page and write songs with titles like "Ex-Girlfriends Are Stupid." Singer Neil Garrard's contributions can't reasonably be described as a success, but the track never grates. Big Boi's presence on "Follow Us" isn't as large, and it's to the song's detriment. Salaam Remi is the fourth producer in four songs, but his approach--carefully programmed funk, in the case slightly more spastic--fits in well. 3.5/5

NS: Even more minimal, in a way--that is, until those synths start slinking through, locating a melody where there once seemed to be nothing more than a solitary guitar chord and Big's exemplary intro. Those are all pluses, but there's a big minus in the form of guest artists Vonnegutt (as if their name weren't already a cue to stay away), particularly their singer, who croons in a very affected way, very redolent of mainstream emo music, which I find obnoxious. Too bad they didn't replace him with Sleepy Brown. 3.5/5

5. Shutterbugg feat. Cutty
AM: I was as surprised as everyone else to discover that this is a Scott Storch production, because "Shutterbugg"--funky, futuristic, slightly goofy--sounds like the noises I imagine Big Boi hears inside his head (this song, like most of the album, is co-produced by Big Boi). The hook sounds like a fat guy beatboxing into a talkbox, and the lasers and terse guitars emanate from some laboratory-nightclub hybrid. You may have noticed I'm not devoting much space to Big Boi's raps--there's only a finite number of adjectives that express that something's really good--but here, as before, his agility and charm win out. 4.5/5

NS: If you had told me a couple years ago that Big Boi would singlehandedly revive the vocoder, and would use it in a way that would shame all previous practitioners of autotune, I wouldn't believe you. Yet here we are. With producer Scott Storch demonstrating an unexpected facility for evoking Tron-like soundscapes, "Shutterbugg" is a deviously staccato statement of form, a single that sounds like it's in the midst of currently loading, an artifact of hip-hop digitalism where the pieces can still be recognized and analyzed--let's just say there's a lot going on here. And that guitar part is so wonderful, and Cutty's brief bridge is so easy on the ears, and...I'm still not done describing what makes "Shutterbugg" great, but it's all connected. 5/5

6. General Patton
AM: Big Boi is shouting as much as he's rapping here, not his finest form, crowing about himself and the South. The beat is more forceful than anything we've heard previously, but the horns bludgeon more than they punctuate. It does sound like he's standing in front of a gigantic American flag, I guess. Bonus points, however, for the skit that follows "Patton," which is amusing and, more startlingly, might acknowledge the possibility of non-heterosexual sex. 3.5/5

NS: Along similar lines, I never expected Big Boi could craft such a number of devastating verses while accompanied by a sample of a Verdi opera. Epic choral chants have just as much a tendency to grate in hip-hop as they do in rock songs, but the horn samples add an additional spryness, and good lord is Big Boi on point. He's great at using traditional phrasing and rhyming in hip-hop without sounding, well, like he's rapping--it sounds more like a guy calling you out for your bullshit in the most devastating possible manner. The listener is likely to be exhausted by the speed and force of Big's rhymes--imagine how much work he put into spitting them. 4/5

7. Tangerine feat. T.I. & Khujo Goodie
AM: This is the sort of music that strikes me, a non-musician, as minor key. Not sure if that's the case, but the gray tones here are disquieting. The lyrics don't suit the surroundings at all (T.I., at one point, announces "dick game glorious," and he means what you think he means), although I'm impressed by Big Boi's Greg Louganis bit, and heartened by Tip's repping of old school Kast. 4/5

NS: Treads similar territory as "Turns Me On," but with a tribal tom-tom beat that, of course, many would probably associated with Timbaland. Whether or not that's deserved, I don't know, but it's definitely a south thing, and if the beat didn't clue you in, T.I.'s presence certainly will. The recently sprung Mr. Tip offers a verse that seems to be about witnessing an orgy in a car that happens to be banging Southernplayalisticadillacmusik, I think. One of Sir Lucious Left Foot's more depraved, lascivious numbesr, but "Tangerine" is still overloaded with charm and, uh, relistenability. 3.5/5

8. You Ain't No DJ feat. Yelawolf
AM: Let's pause for a second to lament the absence of Andre 3000, Big Boi's partner in OutKast, and a brilliant MC. Disturbing decisions from on high at Jive Records kept two collaborations ("Royal Flush," which also features Raekwon, and "Lookin' 4 Ya," both excellent) off Sir Lucious Left Foot. Andre's present only as the producer of "You Ain't No DJ." His work artfully arranges the sound it makes when you fire phasers inside of Coke bottles, and the production is so insistent and bizarre that it's hard to notice the MCs. Newcomer Yelawolf arrives from the Busta Rhymes-Busdriver school of rapping, without the talent or manic energy of either. Finally, let's pause to lament the presence of the remaining skits, which are appended, annoyingly, to the end of this track and others, Aquemini-style. 3.5/5

NS: Andre 3000's production here is his sole contribution to the album in full--Jive Records, who are now perennially on my shit list, wouldn't allow any track featuring Dre's vocals, so Big Boi leaked them anyway. "You Ain't No DJ" isn't even close to one of his best productions, and while it starts off interestingly enough, it does end up sounding more repetitive and random than any of the previous seven songs. Also, Yelawolf offers what is perhaps the worst verse on the entire album--I get if he wants to deliberately ignore the beat, but conceding that, his lines just aren't impressive on their own. 3/5

9. Hustle Blood feat. Jamie Foxx
AM: Sir Lucious Left Foot: Son Of Chico Dusty missteps with "Hustle Blood," a disjointed tale of familial difficulties. There's nothing egregious going on, but the song feels lifeless, a surprise considering Lil Jon produced it. It's better than "Shots" but worse than "Blame It." 2/5

NS: A severe misstep. Markedly more unimaginative, plodding and lugubrious than anything that came before it, "Hustle Blood" only highlights the incredible heights that could have been achieved if this track had been replaced by, say, "Royal Flush." The only reason I even give it 2 stars is that Big Boi gets in a few good lines and we are mercifully spared any Ray Charles impression. 2/5

10. Be Still feat. Janelle Monáe
AM: "Be Still" would fit on Monáe's recent The ArchAndroid, although it doesn't feature the singer at her most exciting. Somewhat slow--none of the album's last 7 songs are particularly uptempo--the song sounds faintly mournful, though the production and performances are vibrant. 4/5

NS: Similarly, "Be Still" starts out as a plodding piano/synth number, and never really picks up steam. It never proves to be worthy of Monáe, but (as I think I've adequately proved) she's good at basically everything she does, and there's something about her clear, unaffected performance that causes people like me to overuse the adjective "lovely." Otherwise, there isn't much of a melody here, nor does Big Boi spit with the particular verve that characterizes the album elsewhere. 2.5/5

11. Fo Yo Sorrows feat. George Clinton, Too $hort, & Sam Chris
AM: An extremely stoned cousin to "Shutterbugg," with a hint of "You Ain't No DJ," and debts to OutKast's George Clinton collaboration, "Synthesizer." Big Boi owns this song, but the guests are all great: Clinton does his bullfrog prophet thing, Sam Chris sounds like he's holding in a hit as his sings the spooky chorus, and Too $hort stops by, drops four killer lines, and takes off. 4.5/5

NS: I'll always have a large space in my heart for the great hip-hop blunt-roll anthems of the past, but "Fo Yo Sorrows" may just be the genre's greatest dissertation on the subject, a full-throttle inquiry into the mind of a weedhead that proves rap and psychedelia were never that far apart, especially when George Clinton is on tap. Everyone here is on point: Clinton's intro is awesome (and he turns the line "don't need no girlfriend, just need my dope" into an anthem of conscience), Too $hort's cameo is appropriate and well-timed, and Big provides one of those great half-spaced raps, which are quick and agile enough to make me wonder what he's smoking. 5/5

12. Night Night feat. B.o.B. & Joi
AM: "Night Night" often sounds like it's building towards triumphalism but avoids ever getting there. Big Boi swims laps around the fluid beat. The guests are relegated to hook duties, which they handle well, without getting in their host's way. 4/5

NS: Love the skit at the beginning. Otherwise, "Night Night" has some charming guitar lines and backup vocals, and there's a sense of triumphal kitchen sink-ism that oustrips "Daddy Fat Sax" for sheer crazy parts. Not all of it works, and I'm sort of sad B.o.B. didn't a verse of his own, as his shtick would fit well within the timbre of this track. When Big Boi says "here comes something new," it's sad to note that this is one of the few tracks where this is not the case. 3/5

13. Shine Blockas feat. Gucci Mane
AM: On "Shine Blockas," DJ Cutmaster Swift takes an old Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes tune, cuts and speeds it up, lays on some keyboard, and walks away with a track of undeniable radiance. Against this exultant backdrop, Big and Gucci--the former darting around, the latter hopping lazily, both supremely assured--drop some many-times-told rhymes about haters. But with their clever new term and beautiful production, the rappers invite the listener in on the shine. 5/5

NS: I've waxed rhapsodic about this song too many times already, and it only gets better with age. To make it quick: "Shine Blockas" is one of the most truly, endlessly revelatory tracks I have ever heard, in hip-hop or elsewhere. Big Boi has always been quick, but here he's rapping on air, his words and cadences possessed by something greater than mere convenience or subject matter. Gucci is the perfect counterpoint: mealy-mouthed, inexpressive, and yet he somehow turns all that into an advantage. I love the way the production changes to subtly reflect Big's intonations, breaking apart, stopping on a dime, constantly mutating, always buoying the man in front. If I could give this track 5.5 stars, I would. 5/5

14. The Train Pt. 2 (Sir Luscious Left Foot Saves The Day) feat. Sam Chris
AM: Apparent sequel to an Idlewild cut, Part 2 bears no particular resemblance to the first installment. I hear echoes of ATLiens in the unhurried "Train." In '96, when that album came out, Dré was still writing Big Boi's lyrics; 14 years later, no one would question his wordplay. I enjoy the laid-back bounce, but I think this album is missing an uptempo monster, in the style of "GhettoMusick." It's worth noting that, at about 4:40, this is the longest song on an album of compact jams. 4/5

NS: Don't know why the guy who sings the hook on this doesn't get credit, but never mind that. It's a great vocal performance, whoever it is, pushing a long string of philosophical arguments that are more thoughtful than anything you are likely to hear on a hip-hop album this year. Big Boi is similarly ruminative, encapsulating and expanding on a lot of themes in a manner characteristic of great album enders. There's something dark and lonely about "The Train Pt. II," but it's also a beautiful finish, and I love the instrumental outro to the point where I could listen to that on a repeating loop. 5/5

15. Back Up Plan
AM: Left Foot has far more scratching than most hip-hop these days, and Cutmaster Swift does his thing throughout "Back Up Plan," an intricate Organized Noise production. The rubbery guitar nicely accents the beat, and the whole thing sounds pretty bumping, even out of my pauper's speakers. Tons of internal rhymes in this one. They'd leave a lesser rapper tongue-tied, but Big Boi sails through. The sign-off is a nice touch, perhaps a sign that the exhausting process of actually releasing Sir Lucious Left Foot: Son Of Chico Dusty wore out even the irrepressible Big Boi. 4/5

NS: "Back Up Plan" is good, yet another classic in a way, and the only problem I really have with it is that it seems like an odd closer, especially considering how perfect "The Train Pt. II" would have been in its stead. With that out of the way, "Back Up Plan" closes out the album with yet another litany of hooks, and if nothing else Big Boi doesn't even sound close to tired. Outkast often proves that things that often sound hoary in other contexts--cheerleader chants, for instance--can find new life when found in unexpected circumstances. 4/5

Computing the average track score is not an accurate way to gauge a critic's opinion of an album, but it is easily done. For the curious: Aaron's was 4.03 per track, and Nathan's was 3.87