Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Critical Beatdown: Round Eleven

Ghostface Killah, "Together Baby"

NS: The soul sample that accounts for the title of this song shows up haphazardly, sometimes mid-verse, and is otherwise unrelated to the Supreme Clientele-hearkening free-associative carnage contained within. Ghost has seemed less slapdash than this before, but not in the past few years. 4/5

AM: The jarring transition from the soulful chorus to the sub-RZA minor key verses--produced by someone called Yakub--is terrible, and Ghost, who just a few years ago attacked his beats so hard he sounded breathless, just seems bored. 2.5/5

PJ Harvey, "Written On The Forehead"

NS: Overlaying Church harmonies and vast, Enya-esque synthmospheres with reggae beats isn't something I'd normally associate with Ms. Harvey--particularly not as the first single to an album ostensibly called Let England Shake. The song works, of course, as I think all PJ Harvey songs basically do, but there's still a lot of concentrated weirdness to unpack. 4/5

AM: The most ethereal thing Harvey's ever recorded, and by some margin, "Written On The Forehead" sounds less like a song than a collection of noises drifting in from outside. In less than four minutes the song achieves a quiet rapture, and the effect is the sort of thing many artists spend a career chasing. 4.5/5

David Lynch, "Good Day Today"
NS: Speaking of weirdness..."Good Day Today" bears the stamp of Lynch's previous collaborations with Angelo Badalamenti, but this is obviously far housier than anything you'd ever hear on Twin Peaks. Lynch's lyrics are deceptively simple and childish, as we'd expect, spicing up the otherwise generic but still-rousing technobeat. 3.5/5

AM: For his first single, the director has transposed his oddities to the world of music. Over a throbbing synthesyzers and a drum machine, Lynch wrestles with the themes that appear in his work ("So tired of fire"), his vocals heavily processed. His delivery is arrhythmic--a proper R&B singer could have a hit with this--but the chorus is arresting in its simplicity. 4/5

Daft Punk, "End Of The Line"
NS: I have understandable expectations for Tron: Legacy (Jeff Bridges is in it, which is cool, and the dialogue couldn't be nearly as bad as the 1982 original, right?), but I have been really excited to see how Daft Punk's score underscores the onscreen video game action. "End Of Line" is about exactly what I imagined, but that doesn't make it any less exciting. Compared to the rest of the movie, anyway. 3.5/5

AM: Is a song that builds to something considerably less exciting than what it promises a success? Not in the case of "End Of The Line," which has the Detroit techno nods but not the radiant pop-funk workouts that color the group's best work. 1.5/5

Destroyer, "Chinatown"
NS: Not sure this sounds like any Chinatown I've ever been to--I can't remember the last time a Destroyer song has gone down this smoothly (and my lord, those saxophones shouldn't be as effective as they are). If I had to compare this to anything, it would be the melodic yet dance-y spaciness of The The's Soul Mining. In other words, I have to give this a perfect grade. There's literally nothing wrong with it. 5/5

AM: Huddling amidst the gauzy atmospherics, Bejar has rarely sounded more desperate as a singer. But as a songwriter he's flexing muscles I didn't even know he had--the female vocals and back-alley saxophone are both new to the insular world of Destroyer. This is Bejar at his best: inscrutable, yes, but also genuinely mysterious. 5/5

Bernard Sumner, Hot Chip and Hot City, "Didn't Know What Love Was"

NS: I'm going to keep singling out these group collab tracks written for Converse commercials, not because Sumner and co. are particularly deserving of my ire, but because "What Love Was" provides a solid demonstration of what a song written for commercials sounds like. It's not as good; it's also a mish-mash of New Order's worst early 90's tendencies. 1/5

AM: I have not idea how this was composed, but it resembles a Hot Chip track--and this one, like the others I've heard, sounds like a sleepy version of New Order--with Bernard Sumner singing over it. It's alright, slightly too busy, but mostly it just makes me want to put on "The Perfect Kiss" or "Age Of Consent" or "Bizarre Love Triangle" or... 2.5/5


  1. I believe "Chinatown" is the first non-Big Boi track to earn a double 5/5. I have done a poor job of tagging the Beatdowns, and the Blogger search bar sucks, so it's hard to tell for sure.

    Though it sounds like neither, I can't hear it and not be reminded of "Tangled Up In Blue" and "Simple Twist Of Fate"

  2. And are jarring verse-to-chorus edits becoming a new hallmark of Wu-style production? "Our Dreams"--a better song, and actually produced by RZA--had the same thing.

  3. What about Teenage Fanclub? At some point I can go back and retag the Beatdowns that weren't labeled.

    Yeah, and "Together Baby" has Wu-Massacre written all over it. "Our Dreams" had the totally unnecessary MJ sample, which, you know, everyone at the time had to do that. I can't believe the producer's name is Yacub, too...I keep thinking of "Yacub, creator and owner of the devil. Swiiine merchant." Why would a producer name himself after the evil scientist that created white people?

  4. the GFK song also sounds a lot like a wizard of poetry leftover, lyrics-wise