Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Some Stuff Reviewed July 2009

5: Citrus Cooler Gatorade
4: Ecto Cooler Hi-C
3: Hawaiian Punch
2: Sunny Delight
1: Tap Water from Mexico


Negative 100 (the numeric equivalent of being kicked in the nuts while drinking Mexican Tap Water)

This movie aims to expand on the formula popularized in 2006’s “Borat” in which Sasha Baron Cohen dresses up like a quirky character from another country and then visits the United States in an effort to get Americans to give ignorant sound bites so that the audience is forced to uncomfortably laugh at the mirror held up in front of them. This type of comedy has been gaining popularity since the early 90’s with acts like The Jerky Boys, Crank Yankers and Jay Leno’s’ “Jay Walking,” mining the responses of everyday people for comic gold, “Borat” perfected this method and brought the approach to the masses by producing a coherent, blockbuster movie based on the concept.

While “Borat” succeeded at connecting with audiences, introducing several catchphrases into the American lexicon and actually causing people to examine our attitudes toward foreigners, “Bruno” fails miserably at all of these tasks. “Borat” succeeded because it took an entertaining character (an eastern European journalist unfamiliar with American customs) and surrounded him with “everyday people” like college students, hotel employees, security guards and church goers and showed their often hilarious, if insensitive, reactions to his antics. “Bruno” replaces the fish-out-of-water eastern European with a buffoonishly gay, sexually deviant, fashion-obsessed 19-year old from Austria and replaces the “everyday people” with people on the edges of American society like fortune tellers, politician, swingers, prostitutes, television producers and Hollywood agents. Bruno’s words and actions are so over-the-top that it’s hard to believe anyone could take him seriously (probably why so many scenes seem scripted) and when he does pull off a genuinely outrageous stunt (like simulating oral sex with the deceased half of Milli Vanilli) the reaction from the psychic in the room is pretty mundane because he’s presumably seen so much bizarre stuff in his career as a “psychic to the stars” that he’s barely phased.

The most disappointing aspect of “Bruno” is that it squanders so much potential: Sasha Baton Cohen is undoubtedly talented and topics like the fashion industry, people’s attitudes toward homosexuality, America’s celebrity culture and the entertainment business are so ripe for parody it’s hard to believe the man responsible for making millions of Americans say “Very Nice” could drop the ball so badly. “Bruno” is not funny, not thought provoking and not entertaining, a few gags are amusing in a “I can’t believe they got away with that” kind of way, but beyond shock value there is simply nothing there.

Kurious: II


Kurious debuted in the summer of ’94 with the positively received single “I’m Kurious” and the critically acclaimed “A Constipated Monkey” LP, but had trouble differentiating himself from a pack of rookies that included Nas, B.I.G., Outkast, Craig Mack, Jeru the Damaja, Keith Murray and Wu Tang Clan. Aside from releasing the worst titled near-classic album in history, Kurious’ commercial failure was much more a function of poor timing than lack of talent and his brand of slightly-to-the-left NYC Hip-Hop was a natural extension of early 90’s groups like 3rd Bass, KMD and Downtown Science and bridged the gap between that era and the white label/indie renessaince of the late 90’s. Kurious dealt with this setback by taking an extended hiatus and has only surfaced recently on guest appearances with underground villain MF Doom, but demand for the album, fueled largely by increased interest in 90’s nostalgia, resulted in a re-issue of his nearly impossible-to-find debut album and a healthy buzz for more music from one of the 90’s most overlooked MC’s.

While Kurious has been out of the spotlight for a hot minute (more like 15 years worth of hot minutes), the time away has not really diminished his creativity or wordplay and while the majority of tracks on “II” are pretty straight forward, he’s still the same distinctive and unique MC from the early 90’s. The album has a few standouts, mainly the much too short “Take What Is Given,” the MC Serch and MF Doom assisted “Benneton” and the official single “Sittin’ In My Car” (an updated version of Slick Rick’s largely forgotten 1995 single that was released during his incarceration), but suffers from the typical pitfalls of internet-only releases like the inclusion of way too much filler material and generic/bland production.

Overall, the album is not a classic but the 4 or 5 legit bangers should make it worth a listen for anybody that’s been asking “What’s up with that ‘Uptown Sh*t’ guy?”

La Coka Nostra: A Brand You Can Trust


La Coka Nostra combines the best elements of House of Pain (hard hitting lyrics and bada** white boy steez), Everlast (gravely, world weary vocals mixed with intense rhymes), DJ Lethal
(heavy metal infused hip-hop beats), Ill Bill (slick lyricism and conspiracy theories) and Slaine (classic underground wordplay) to form a new entity that is possibly even bigger than the sum of its’ parts.

“A Brand You Can Trust” is largely a success because all 4 MC’s bring a distinct voice, cadence and subject matter to each track and even on conceptual songs like “Nuclear Medicine Men” or “F**K Tony Montana” every guy contributes to the team effort without losing his individual flavor. And for critics quick to write this off as just more “Shamrocks & Shenanigans” from House of Pain, it’s actually more like HOP 2.0 because it showcases Everlast (sung choruses, more emotive delivery) and DJ Lethal (rock infused beats from a decade with Limp Bizkit) as more complete and compelling artists than they were during early 90’s House of Pain era. When you add Ill Bill and Slaine’s impressive verses, some sick guest appearances from B-Real, Snoop, Bun B, Immortal Technique and PsychoRealm, and a general vibe that will get you amped enough to beat up a nun, you have one of the tightest albums of 2009 and yet another reminder that all rap/rock projects do not have to suck.

The biggest shortcoming of the album is the constant theme of cocaine, while it’s done somewhat creatively and does not glorify the drug-dealing lifestyle like much of commercial Hip-Hop, it feels somewhat contrived and unnatural for guys this talented to focus on such a limited subject for an entire LP. However, despite this one drawback and a few filler tracks this is a sick record and should be the soundtrack to the summer for Hoods & Hooligans everywhere.

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