Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer Turn Up That Noise!

By Stephen Grimstead

JANUARY 11, 1999: 

Talvin Singh, OK (Island)

Talvin Singh is part of the steadily growing population of fast-thinking artists who make the sort of gloriously eclectic music perfectly suited to drive anyone charged with the task of describing it in print at least mildly insane.

One of the coolest aspects of drum’n’bass (and other forms of groove-oriented electronica) is its usefulness as a basic structure upon which an artist can hang all manner of unexpected musical material; some people will listen to almost any sound as long as it’s supplemented by a reasonably steady flow of thumpity thump, sounds which might otherwise hold little interest for them.

Global citizen Singh is masterful in his capacity to integrate Occidental urbania with a world of traditional and faux trad sounds, especially those associated with Asia in general and India in particular. Some of the hype to which press people are treated informs us that Singh desires to explore “the gaps between genres, where music is currently at its most interesting.” In this case, at least, the lines distinguishing hype from what’s real blur like those Singh alters as an integral part of his artistic process.

He does seem to be the classic “man without a country.” A ferocious tabla virtuoso, he reports “When you go to India, it doesn’t matter how good a tabla player you are. You’re British, you’re not Indian. They never accepted me as being Indian. And when I come back to England, they don’t accept me as being British.”

Too bad for “them,” I must say. OK is an important and fascinating addition to a burgeoning international body of work which is helping to undermine easy labeling and lazy thinking. – Stephen Grimstead

Vinnie & the Stardüsters, Novelty Music For Casual Sex (Gourmandizer)

According to their press release, Vinnie & the Stardüsters (umlaut and all) are a “power-rhumba parody trio from Minneapolis, MN.” This terse description really doesn’t do these three chuckleheads justice, since there’s nary a trace of rhumba to be found. What the listener will discover on their Gourmandizer debut, Novelty Music For Casual Sex (or is it Casual Music For Novelty Sex?), are some gut-busting guffaws as these Minnesota misfits slice and dice popular favorites into barely recognizable mutant hybrids fueled by bad intent and random enthusiasm.

Be warned that some of this madness borders on serious all-appendage wanking (particularly the extended “Phone Messages” section covering tracks 14-29), but also take into consideration that the remainder of the CD will likely have the twisted among you groping for a moist towelette for cleansing after bouts of uncontrolled laughter result in soiled underpants. From the barn-burning opener, “Sesame Street/An LA Woman,” to the it’s-fun-to-be-filthy closer, “XXXMas Song (I Saw Mommy Fisting Santa Claus),” there’s something here to offend everyone.

Not as annoying as “Weird Al” Yankovic, nor quite as whiny as the Dead Milkmen, Vinnie & the Stardüsters’ saving grace is their wanton wallowing in political incorrectness. And although an admonition on the CD label states “File under Hüsker Dü,” Vinnie & the Stardüsters are closer in spirit and execution to Hüsker Doo Doo – and that’s a stool sample of an entirely different color. – David D. Duncan

Fear of Pop, Volume 1 (550 Music/Sony)

Now here’s a vanity pro- ject that’s actually worth the trouble that went into it. Popmeister Ben Folds (leader of that clever trio, Ben Folds Five) has rounded up some of his favorite partners in crime (including Fleming McWilliams and John Mark Painter, otherwise known as Fleming & John) and some seriously insignificant material and unleashed the results under the banner of Fear of Pop. This all-new arrangement manages to be alternately funky and funny, and occasionally the two merge for a highly entertaining listening experience.

The bulk of Volume 1 is predominantly snappy instrumentals, but the voices that are heard are most unusual ones. Foremost among them is none other than William Shatner, delivering his patented overblown rendition (remember the excruciating 1968 classic, The Transformed Man?) to great comedic effect on “In Love” and “Still In Love.” Folds and crew veer dangerously into Soul Coughing territory with “I Paid My Money.” The spoken introduction to “Rubber Sled” features the Ben Folds Five surprise smash, “Brick,” being played at 78 rpm in the background, proving that Mr. Folds is refreshingly not above making fun of himself.

Three cheers for batty Ben Folds and his unpretentious “Fear of Pop.” From the CD’s disturbing David Bethell silhouette imagery (particularly the contemplative onanistic heat-packin’ cowpoke on the back cover) to the playfully silly sounds within, Volume 1 of Fear of Pop emerges as a clear winner, deserving of future frivolous volumes. – D.D.D.

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