Sunday, October 3, 2010

Critical Beatdown: Round Ten

Brian Eno, "2 Forms Of Anger"
AM: The increasingly busy first minutes of "2 Forms of Anger" sound like generic dystopian stuff--with a great drum sound, sure, but disconcertingly anonymous . The guitar at 2:08 lands with impact, but everything about "Anger" makes me wish for the joyfully experimental Eno of old, instead of this self-serious electro-gruel. 2.5/5

NS: In retrospect I should have tempered my enthusiasm for Eno first's Warp release, given that nothing that Eno had done lately, on Warp or otherwise, has interested me greatly. "2 Forms" has an exciting pulse and a number of enterprising new guitar sounds, but at its core it's basically a non-song, more in tune with the musician's ambient oeuvre. 2.5/5 

Pimp C feat. Bun B and Drake, "What Up"
AM: Essentially a Drake song featuring the members of UGK, albeit one where everybody holds their own. It's pretty awesome--the exuberant production of Drizzy acolyte Boi-1da recalls "International Player's Anthem"--I just wish Pimp C was more of a presence on his own jam. 4/5

NS: The Naked Soul In Sweet Jones may ultimately be an exercise in poor judgment, but there's no denying that tracks like this are a lot stronger than anything Bun B's recent album Trill OG. Drake's verse in particular is stronger than anything I've heard him do in a while, even as I'm guessing that Pimp C would have never heard of the guy, unless he happened to be a fan of Degrassi... 3.5/5

Mark Ronson feat. D'Angelo, "Glass Mountain Trust"
AM: D'Angelo sounds haunted--probably by that synth pipe organ--and increasingly determined, as he escapes, breaks out, and busts through the glass, only to find himself still trapped. Why he's warbling out of the side of his mouth, well, your guess is as good as mine, but it's nice to have him back for these four minutes. 4/5

NS: Ronson deserves credit for wresting a decent performance out of a man who seemingly Sly Stone'd his way out of the business a full decade ago. He deserves significantly less credit for electronically treating D'Angelo's (basically tuneful) bleatings. Or has D's voice just changed that much? Either way, vintage synths only count for so much with such a canned drum sound. 2.5/5

Willow Smith, "Whip My Hair"
AM: "Whip My Hair" stands as a testament to that most American of ideals: that we could all make a credible Rihanna song if our parents were rich enough. One need not know anything about haters and getting the party started to sing about them. 3.5/5

NS: On some level, it's fascinating. At ten years old, she represents the first American generation to have no institutional memory of 9/11--or, to put it another way, it's possible she was conceived at around the same time Voodoo came out. The song is otherwise screeching, repetitive junk, but at least the subject matter is blessedly ick-free. 1.5/5 

Neil Young, "Walk With Me"
AM: The 64 year-old rock god may be inconsistent these days, but that doesn't mean he can't still bring it. Lyrically, "Walk With Me" is Harvest material, but the sharp bite of Young's electric guitar has that Rust Never Sleeps crunch.  Good stuff, Lanois' production even gives the song a foreboding sense of atmosphere, though the outro could be trimmed. 4/5

NS: Unlike Brian Eno, I'll basically follow Neil's career wherever it goes, even as the prospect of a team-up with Daniel Lanois doesn't exactly excite this non-U2 fan. But with Lanois keeping his trademark electronic textures at a minimal level, Young's unadorned guitar-playing sounds as spirited as it would have in a different context 30 years ago. Would this be better with bass and drums? Maybe, but it's already a high-level Neil Young song. 4/5 

John Legend and The Roots feat. Common and Melanie Fiona, "Wake Up Everybody"
AM: John Legend one of those guys whose formal perfection as a vocalist makes him really boring, and his voice sounds too thin and passionless here to carry a wake the fuck up people-type R&B number. 2/5

NS: If this was 2008, "Wake Up Everybody" would have been a considerable step above what accomplished in his Obama speech-in-single "Yes We Can." But now the 2010 midterms are upon us and "Wake Up Everybody" seems not only silly, but kind of sad. Common is a shot in the arm, but only in comparison to the sleepy-by-nature Legend. 2/5

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