Thursday, November 4, 2004
DE LA SOUL
The Grind Date | Sanctuary Records
Taking a break from their 2/3-completed AOI trilogy, De La Soul gets back to basics with The Grind Date. Self-described as “just a hip-hop record,” Grind is markedly stripped-down, with none of the normal hooky skits or conceptual pieces, just an air of organic spontaneity.
All their humble unpretentiousness aside, it’s pretty amazing how long Dave, Pos, and Maseo have been around. Even as hip-hop elders, De La still have some of the catchiest flows in the business (although these days, they’re more likely to be spitkicking about their waistlines or family matters), and as a group, their styles complement each other in a way that comes with a decade of practice.
While Grind is decidedly not an AOI release, the sound doesn’t mark much of an evolution from 2001’s Bionix—both feature singsong choruses, hooks with a touch of soul, and a consistent background thump that drives most of the album. And pulling in their considerable friend power, they get some help from Common, Flava Flav, MF Doom, and even Spike Lee for a cameo. The beats are provided by a wide array of producers (including Madlib, JayDee, and Jake1), giving enough bump to keep things interesting while keeping the spotlight on the MCs.
All in all, it’s an enjoyable 50 minutes in the De La Soul canon. (BS)
Caught Between Worlds | At A Loss Recordings
Their fourth full-length release, Caught Between Worlds, marks the passage of 10 years since Stinking Lizaveta’s formation in Philadelphia. A brutal and mathematically precise trio, the band specializes in confusing genres, creating artful disjunctions, and a formidable live act for which they have been widely praised. Guitarist Yanni Papadopoulos’ work is complex and interesting enough to fill in the space not taken by a singer, and his brother Alexi’s bass-work is done on an electric standup that, in calmer moments, he bows to sinister effect.
Of all the bands to which they could be compared, Shellac’s influence is most obvious in the moments of grating repetition. Listening to “Beyond the Shadows,” as it coalesces from a swirling mass of eastern-flavored musical debris, into a heavy blues-based doom sound, and ultimately to a franticly paced musical blitzkrieg, is to indulge the part of the human being that always wanted to listen to Six Organs, The Melvins, and The Stooges at the same time. The music is dynamic and exciting—make no mistake—it’s just that listeners may find the experience oppressive after one or two songs. (MB)
Astronaut | Capitol Records
In case you were counting, this is the venerable pop group’s second reunion. The first, with a new guitarist and rhythm section, yielded a pair of huge hits and a follow-up “covers” disc that was a bomb of epic proportions. This reunion is more “legit,” y’see, because the original five-some from the “New Romantic” era has returned.
There really is no reason to care, unless you’re a Durannie with the inability to grow up. Not because they were really all that bad in the ‘80s, but because they cannot for the life of them come up with anything as compelling as “New Moon on Monday” or “Hungry Like the Wolf” here. Repeated listenings discern no hooks and, live drums or not, they are flat sounding, from their once-preening singer Simon LeBon to their unelastic Taylor/Taylor and Taylor rhythm section.
Stick with their first few, put “Notorious” and “Ordinary World” on an IPOD, and skip this shoddy exercise in nostalgic profit-reaping. (JA)