Noname | Alpines | Wume | Laibach | Mercury Rev
It all gets a little bit serious this week. All, that is, except for ‘The Lonely Goatherd’. There’s some hardcore philosophical ideas in there, some real political hot-potatoes confronted and even some theological naval-gazing.
And then there’s ‘The Lonely Goatherd’.
Fortunately, each song approaches their topics with enough style and charisma, in my opinion, to hold their appeal whether or not you are ideologically aligned with their messages.
Except for ‘The Lonely Goatherd’.
So sit back and enjoy. I’m sure you will. Just never mind ‘The Lo… oh, you get the picture.
1. The ‘Charm Offensive’ | Noname: Blaxploitation
Rapper Noname (real name Fatimah Nyeema Warner) honed her craft as a slam poet in Chicago, Illinois. And, while many lyricists are referred to as poets, in Warner’s case the label fits as she’s brought the commitment to storytelling and wordplay to her craft in ways others often don’t.
Obviously, when a song is called Blaxploitation, there’s no need to over-explain the premise. Suffice to say that, while Warner is her usual, great, exuberant self on the track, where it really reaches its emotional climax is when the actor, David Lemieux, is sampled from the 1973 film The Spook Who Sat by the Door, saying:
“I was born black, I live black, and I’ma die probably because I’m black
Because some cracker …
Is probably gonna put a bullet in the back of my head”
Cleary, it’s a message that is feels as pertinent now as it ever has been. But what I like about this track in particular is that the song is given punch, energy and propulsion by the funky backbeat underneath it.
2. The ‘Military Coup’ | Alpines: Heavy Metal
Those of you who are paying close attention (there’s definitely at least one of you out there) will note that last week’s Introduction referenced my attendance at a gig by Bob Matthews and Catherine Pockson (as Alpines are better known to their respective families) on the Thursday night. That event was a preview for the band’s release of their third album Full Bloom.
And while I considered myself ‘keen’ on Alpines previously (their track Completely was a definite highlight of mine in 2016 and one I would recommend as further listening), I’d always felt there was a slight edge missing. Perhaps that was fuelled by their music bearing some of the sonic hallmarks of Massive Attack, FKA Twigs and Banks – all of whose music I love precisely because of its darkness – or perhaps it’s because the lyrics were a little too relationship-focussed for my tastes.
However, all that has changed on Full Bloom and nowhere is that better captured than on Heavy Metal. The bass deserves – nay, demands – that you turn it up to 11, while Pockson’s deliberate killing of the key notes in the chorus is delicious. Delve a bit deeper and the album is full of environmental messages which are clearly deeply personal to the band. The result is a record which is richer, more complex and all the more rewarding.
3. The ‘Peaceful Protest’ | Wume: Functionary
I love a sci-fi song, me. Just check my Best of Q1 list and you’ll see AIR CREDITS’ brilliant ‘SAFE ROOM’ top of the pile.
You can smell such a track a mile off. It’s the mechanised voice (sent from the future to warn us, no doubt, of our decreased levels of humanity in the age of ‘droids), it’s the way the music seems broken and fragmented with almost all semblance of rhythm and melody surgically removed. And, of course, it’s the Huxley-esque / Orwellian dystopian messages contained within the ‘lyrics’ (often containing thinly-veiled references to Freud and Marx, of course). And so, all of that is present once again on Baltimore duo, Wume’s Functionary.
But listen a little more carefully. Is any of what is being said actually that dissimilar to our actual lives right now? How far is this horror-show from becoming a reality? And its at that point that you realise this is no sci-fi song at all…
4. ‘Guerilla Warfare’ | Laibach: The Lonely Goatherd
So as you’ve been reading, it all gets a little bit serious this week. All, that is, except for ‘The Lonely Goatherd’. There’s been some hardcore philosophical ideas in there, some real political hot-potatoes confronted… and there’s even some theological naval-gazing to come.
And then there’s ‘The Lonely Goatherd’.
Slovenian avant-garde group, Leibach really cannot be adequately explained – one look at the band’s frankly creepy video for their Sound of Music cover below will testify to that.
I sort of like Daily Telegraph writer, Richard Wolfson’s assessment of them, that; “[Laibach] absorb the mannerisms of the enemy, adopting all the seductive trappings and symbols of state power, and then they exaggerate everything to the edge of parody… [before turning] their focus to highly charged issues — the West’s fear of immigrants from Eastern Europe, the power games of the EU, the analogies between Western democracy and totalitarianism.”
But I also just sort of like to believe they make music like this cos they’re madder than a box of frogs and want to make people laugh. It certainly worked on that score.
5. The ‘Quiet Riot’ | Mercury Rev: Sermon
When a band revisits another artist’s album (as Mercury Rev have done here with Bobbie Gentry’s The Delta Sweete) it’s the highest praise you can give it to say that, while you may or may not be familiar with the original, you’ve never heard country music like this before.
Even at a time when artists such as Amythyst Kiah and Mipso are pushing the boundaries of the genre, up-state New Yorkers Mercury Rev deserve immense credit for having the vision and talent to seamlessly twin what are very well-established genre tropes with hazy strings and modern jazz keys.
The effect is a track which feels both modern and traditional and weirdly progressive for something so placid.
And so we reach a cease-fire for this week. You can find all of the tracks reviewed above in the 45 Revolutions per Minute playlist below or click to access the 45 RPM Playlist on Spotify itself.
If you like what you hear (or even if you don’t), please engage in dialogue with me @45rpm_Reviews on Twitter. I can’t listen to every new track released each week so all recommendations from like-minded readers are most welcome too.
The silence is broken again next week when I’ll return with five more selections for your consideration. Until then, thank you for reading and go in peace.
– SV –