Thursday, February 21, 2008

33% of my posts will not be about DBT, I swear...

...but Rob Harvilla's piece in the Voice about the so-called best and worst songs from the Truckers' newest record got me seeing a little red. I'll admit Southernness is a badge I may wear too proudly at times in the popcrit sphere, mainly because we're such an obvious minority and because "our" music has so often been ignored, misrepresented, or lauded in patronizing tones. Harvilla's intentions here seem totally fine, but as a (presumed) Northerner I think he's (perhaps inevitably) reacting too skittishly to the supposed cultural cliches embedded in "Bob." We as Southerners live much more comfortably with these motifs and tropes, and while we may sometimes take umbrage to lazy swipes at pickup trucks, NASCAR and redneckery in general, it doesn't change the fact that these things DO permeate our region, and believe it or not, they ain't all bad! From my first listen until now, "Bob" strikes me as simply a clever, quiet vignette. To me the line about not bending over isn't an insinuation of possible queerness so much as just a quite wry and on-the-nose depiction of how a guy like Bob would probably think about such things (though I'm not discounting the queer reading either).

Much of my frustration also goes back to something I brought up in my own Pitchfork review of the record, namely the puzzling insistence of most (Yankee?) critics to put the complicated Hood on a pedestal at the expense of his ostensibly more generic, joke-a-minute sidekick Cooley. Certainly, Patterson's lent the Truckers a distinctiveness relative to their genre(s) of southern rock/alt-country/whathaveyou that the Stroker Ace might not offer, but don't forget that ever since Southern Rock Opera it's basically been Cooley alone who has infused DBT with the sense of humor that's allowed the band to truly stand out in a pervasively dour No Depression field.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Looking Pretty Hood in Pink Polos

I'm not difficult to please. In my pop music I want plenty of slanting, disorienting, otherworldly weirdness, and in my so-called "weird" music I want moments of gloriously shining, cloud-breaking pop. 2008 is starting off on a good foot thanks to a few artists who embrace one or the other of those dichotomies. On the side of palatable strangeness I've witnessed the likes of Evangelicals and Bon Iver taking off-kilter, oddly halting art fare and then shooting it through with occasional bursts of unabashed pop prettiness and/or straightforward fervor. It's a trick Panda Bear and Marnie Stern performed with aplomb last year, and it's thrilling when it works, when disparate messy threads suddenly coalesce into something that strikes directly at the heart.

Perhaps even more exciting, and certainly more subversive, is mass-appeal pop that distorts and refracts convention in unexpected places to create something catchily immediate yet alluringly unfamiliar. The dude who's really knocking my socks off right now with this strategem is The-Dream, heretofore best known for penning Rihanna's uber-inescapable "Umbrella." As you'd expect with this record being a songwriter/producer's baby, the stakes don't seem quite as high as if The-Dream was some studio/label's creation, and hence he's free to indulge in all types of chicanery, gleefully mashing ethereality up against sweet sweet raunch like a true inheritor of Prince and R. Kelly's mantles. The disembodied, floating quality of "I Luv Your Girl," the terrific contrast of head-rushing chorus and syrup-sippin' sample on "She Needs My Love," (not to mention Kells-approved filth like "she keep them thongs ch-ch-chewing on her asshole") and the sheer audaciousness of "Falsetto" -- it all adds up to maybe my top record so far in '08, fuck if it came out on 12/11/07.