Godspeed You! Black Sebastian, Fold Your Hands Child Like Antennas to Heaven
Think: Mogwai, Nick Drake, the twee-est end of the world, ever
Montreal doomsday instrumentalists Godspeed You! Black Emperor meet everyone’s favorite Glaswegian septet for this mash-up, in which soundtracks to the apocalypse get the pop treatment, Belle and Sebastian-style. Stuart Murdoch’s wry lyricism is a perfect match for the sonic Armageddon of Godspeed’s soaring strings and pounding percussion. “You only did it so that you could wear / Your terry underwear,” Murdoch laments, while the sounds of eternal damnation rage like the fires of hell in “She Dreamt She Was a Bulldozer, She Dreamt She Was a Star of Track and Field.” Album opener “The Dead Fox in the Snow Blues” begins with a monologue recounted by Death himself: “The car’s on fire…and the streets are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides,” which segues into the irresistible tale of a lonely little fox, a precocious bookworm, and a “boy on a bike” who’s not having as much fun as he used to. The highlight, though, is “The World Police State I Am In,” in which a glockenspiel, like dry, human bones being knocked together in a crypt of eternal suffering, rings eerily over the admission, “Now I spend my day turning tables round in Marks & Spencer’s.” They don’t seem to mind, and neither do we!
Fugazi Z Top, Eliminator (+3 Songs)
Think: Minor Threat, Lynyrd Skynyrd, culture jamming, being drunk
If ZZ Top ever lacked anything in its unique brand of swaggering biker-rock, it might have been a political edge. And if anything was ever missing from Fugazi’s angular, anti-corporate proto-punk, it might have been really, really long beards. Bringing together the granddaddies of Texican rock ‘n’ roll and the kings of D.C.’s post-hardcore regime, this mash-up will smash-up your face like an X-marked fist wrapped in a Texas flag. The contrast is perhaps most stunning on the duet “Gimme All Your Merchandise”: Man’s man Billy Gibbons (you know, the one with the beard) smoothly croons, “Gimme all your lovin’ / all your hugs and kisses, too,” before Guy Picciotto rabidly interjects, “We owe you nothing / you have no control.” (Listen close and you can hear the sound of the drum kit being destroyed as Picciotto flips backward, crushing his bandmates under the weight of his social commitment.)
Crosby, Stills & Nas, S/T
Think: Donovan and Redman sharing a pot of chamomile tea—and their feelings
Teach your children to love music again! This unlikely mash-up bridges flower-power folk and head-nodding beats to create the kind of self-conscious, humble accounts of street life that are rarely found in contemporary urban music. The archetypal bravado of hip-hop posturing becomes achingly fragile on “Helplessly Hoping I Ruled the World,” echoed on the revelatory “Helpless Nigga Rap,” which suggests a vulnerable side to the young MC. Even women, long the victims of rappers’ misogyny, are given due ‘spect: “Almost Cut My Bitch” is a lament of a tragedy that could have been, “Guinevere, the World is Yours” offers the reins of power to a woman of mythical beauty and strength, and “Lady of the Island Shootouts” is a sobering tale of gangland violence—relocated to the South Pacific. For young and old alike, it ain’t hard to tell that “Crosby, Stills & Nas” will not disappoint. And that’s pretty “suite,” nigga.
Aphex Twain, Come on Over to Daddy
Think: Squarepusher, Loretta Lynn, robot-farmers
It’s laptop glitch meets New Country glitz when the pride of Timmins, Ontario, teams up with Richard D. James (Aphex Twin) for this genre-bending mash-up. The title track blends Shania’s bubbly invitation to “Come on over / Come on over, baby!” with the creepy refrain, “I will eat your soul.” Threatening, sure, but also undeniably catchy! Beneath the blips, beeps, and modal drone of “Whose Bed Have Your hy a scullyas lyf adhagrow Been Under?” is the good, old-fashioned stomp of a barnyard hoedown—it’s easy to imagine a happy, dungaree-clad fella, swinging his partner, do-si-do, blood trickling down his lips from the chicken head he’s just torn from its spindly, feathery neck with his teeth.
Red Hot House Painters, Blood Sugar Sex Magik… Red House Painters
Think: James Brown, James Taylor, nouns
Drug-fueled funk gets down with desperation and morbidity during this stirring set of dorm-room anthems for bright days and bad ones. Failed experiment? No. A brilliant conflation of introspective bedside ballads and flagrant penis-waving? Hell yes. The once floor-stopping “Give It Away” gets the rainy-day treatment with the addition of ambient city sounds and Mark Kozelek’s moans for help (“Have You Forgotten How to Give It Away”), while the morose “Songs for a Blue Guitar” now slithers and slinks courtesy of Flea’s delirious high-kicking, air-humping, bass histrionics (“Songs for a Funky Monk”). The highlight, however, is inarguably the 28-minute epic “Californidowncolorfulhillunderthebridgesong,” consisting entirely of a Neil Young-ian guitar solo drenched in reverb, feedback, and self-loathing, accompanied by the whirring sounds of Anthony Kiedis spinning his hair in circles. This arena-rock-sized slab of FU.N. unites the once-separated legions of beer-soaked frat boys and mascara-stained wallflowers. (Blood sugar) sex magik (red house painting), indeed.
Gastr del Collective Sol, 7even Year Mirror Repair
Think: Structurally adventurous found-sound explorations, God
At first glance, the pairing of NASCAR/Jesus enthusiasts Collective Soul with David Grubbs and Jim O’Rourke’s consistently challenging experimental noise project seems unlikely—that is, until the first few chords of “Shine That Rifle When It Rains?” kick in, and before you know it you’re on your knees in prayer… to the gods of rock and roll. Similarly glorious are the heartfelt “Precious Declaration: Thos, Dudley Ah! Old Must Dye” and the boisterous “Gel Subtitled No Sense of Wonder,” which perfectly marry the pop hooks and piety of a band dedicating each note it strikes to Our Gracious Lord in Heaven with the sporadic honking of feedback from Drag City’s influential amp-fiddlers. To answer the question O’Rourke poses before the album concludes with a boiling kettle evaporating into a static roar of white noise, “Why did the sharks watch him drown?” Probably because they were too busy listening to 7even Year Mirror Repair. Amen!
De La Tengo, Three Feet High and Riding the Tiger
Think: A Tribe Called Quest, Sonic Youth, nerds
A geeky Jewish couple from Hoboken, a multi-instrumental comic book aficionado, and three sample-pilfering rappers from Long Island—it’s the original odd couple (x3)! Indie-rock’s critical darlings are set alongside the kings of thinking feller’s hip-hop and the result is a sweet and sugary, cherry chapsticky orgy of masturbatory noise-solos sprinkled atop odes to baby mommas and ghost weed. “Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House From Those Potholes in His Lawn” is a stirring bassanova anthem set to uncleared samples of “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree,” while “The Crying of Lot G (Plug Tunin’)” fuses scratching, Batmobile jokes, the sound of a novelty organ, and whispered confessions of marital insecurities. The rousing album-closer “Me, Myself, and I and You Can Have It All” will not be publicly available for years due to legal issues, but will surely transport listeners back to that golden era of the late 1980s, with its funny voices, slinky rhythms, and Ira Kaplan’s recitation of the names of all his former Spin magazine co-workers and publicity contacts.
The Neil Young Cannibals, Everybody Knows This is Cooked
If you like your singing warbly, your lyrics introspective, and your backing band slightly effeminate and British, then the Neil Young Cannibals are just the thing for you. Wonder why you’re drinking? When the aging rocker’s classic, early material collides with the top-40 kitsch of FYC’s “English beats,” creating sure-fire mash-up hits such as “She Drives Me Crazy Down by the River” and “I’m Not the Man Who Needs a Maid,” even the most stubborn of wallflowers will be bottoming-up at the bar before stumbling onto the dancefloor for some swishy hand-twirling and strobe-lit pogo-ing. “Don’t Look Back (Between the Lines of Age)” slows things down a bit, while “The Needle and the Good Thing” is a chilling elegy for a heroin-addicted friend, its sobering message undercut somewhat by David Gift’s goofy, sing-a-long chorus of “A hey hey hey, woo hoo hoo.” The best album ever made, probably.
And: Keep your eye out for upcoming releases by Q And Not U2 (“Rattle and Beep Beep and Hum”), Buena Vista Social Scene (“You Forgot it in Havana”), and a very “saxy” new mash-up Christmas album by Kenny G and Special Sauce.