Rhythm & Views
AUGUST 24, 1998:
At Budokan: The Complete Concert
IN CELEBRATION OF the 20th anniversary of this monumental live recording, the complete Tokyo concert as it was sequentially performed, uncut and now digitally re-mastered, is presented to a new generation of rock-star wannabes in vivid audio Technicolor. Originally slated as an import-only release, At Budokan became the biggest-selling album of Cheap Trick's career. The truncated 10-song lineup on the original 1978 album never really flowed and sounded haphazardly pieced together; but the sheer power and velocity of such power-pop classics as "Hello There," "Surrender" and "Southern Girls" propelled the album into the stratosphere. Cheap Trick has always been first and foremost a live phenomenon, and this sonically improved, 19-song double-CD set confirms the band's performative prowess to startling effect.
At Budokan was an aural juggernaut, utilizing Cheap Trick's inspired fusing of tuneful power-pop and heavy metal bombast. The rousing Fats Domino cover, "Ain't That A Shame" never sounded more fresh or resounding than it does here, maneuvering in and out of extended, complex passages and exuberantly engaging in improvised riff-swapping. Of course, At Budokan also yielded "I Want You To Want Me," Cheap Trick's first Top-10 smash, and the frenzied Japanese audience sings along with such excitement it puts the screaming chicks at the Beatles' inaugural Ed Sullivan appearance to shame.
Searching For The Scientist
SAN DIEGO'S SELF-styled "Experimental intelligent gabber" is determinedly underground. Obscurity isn't a bad thing, of course; and to Spacewurm's credit, no attempts at compromise are on display on this collection of live recordings. Heavily percussion-oriented with edgy, unsettling electronics aimed like double-barreled shotgun blasts, this music doesn't so much compel you to dance as it dares you to flinch. Wanna psychoanalyze a track like "Russian Space Pussy"? This eight-minute slab of jackhammer thud and sonic grind isn't about sex, but the violent negation thereof. Even when Spacewurm dewaxes the ambient earlobe (the galactic drift of "The Invisible Girl") or offers ravers a gimme (the ultra-funky "Even The Dwarf Starts Small Pt. 2"), there's something distinctively nihilistic afoot. Spacewurm seems to reassert the maxim that in space, no one can hear you scream--or gives a shit if you do. Interestingly, where mainstream groups like Crystal Method dilute the term "electronica" to make it palatable for mall rats, Spacewurm's schizophrenic style is what will make it appeal to fans of other genres (metal, hardcore) that have also been watered down by poseurs.
Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me!: Narrative Poetry
from Black Oral Tradition
SOMETHING YOU NEVER thought you'd see: a CD from Rounder Records, the venerable folk- and world-music label, slapped with a parental advisory sticker? No, they haven't signed the Wu-Tang Clan. But Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me!, a collection of narrative poetry from the African-American oral tradition otherwise known as toasts, is about as close to rap as Rounder is ever likely to get. And what's remarkable about this selection of decades-old rhyme is just how close it comes to the styles that dominate today's popular music landscape.
Recorded mostly in the '60s and mostly in Texas prisons, Get Your Ass is the essential aural companion to Bruce Jackson's 1974 book of the same title, a study of the literature and culture surrounding toasts. Essential, because more than simply a written art, toasts come to life only in their theatrical and individually stylized recitations. Just as characters in many of these toasts establish reputations through their words, the tellers themselves assert identity in how well they present these tales.
Though the toasts on Get Your Ass are full of color and folksy wisdom, beneath the surface simmers a hotbed of psycho-social issues. Selections like "Pimpin' Sam" and "Hobo Ben" are as violent, obscene, and misogynistic as they can be playful and humorous. "Titanic" (a tale so bawdy Celine Dion wouldn't touch it with a 200-foot mast) veils beneath an extended "dumb whitey" joke racial and sexual politics than run much deeper. And "Stackolee," an age-old tale that's part horror show and part reality-based, puts the continued popularity of gangsta rap in perspective. Though so much has changed in the years since the toast evolved into rap, it's both amazing and tragic how much has stayed the same.
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