Spoek Mathambo/Big K.R.I.T.
Think Positive--Or Not
Spoek Mathambo: Father Creeper (Sub Pop)
Although I slotted this Soweto-raised 27-year-old's 2010 Mshini Wam as promising kwaito electro, I never imagined it promised a hip-hop record so dark it reveals his labelmate Shabazz Palaces for the arty pothead we can assume he is. Contra the nervous crits who claim to hear a "palpable feeling of hope" or "summery highlife melodies" (highlife, eh? I've heard of that‑-African, right?), even the sweet opener about the sexual maturation of a guy who was feeling it before his pubes came in ends ominously. After that come evocations of oppression only more brutal because they're sometimes dissociated‑-blood diamonds, why we hate our crap jobs, the deadening surrender of the tricking American hip-hop makes light of. The music suits because it's also dissociated‑-beaty enough to keep your foot tapping and your subconscious involved, but devoid of the escapist joy that is the miracle of so much Afropop produced from equally horrendous daily struggles. A
Big K.R.I.T.: 4Eva N a Day (free download)
He was just Kritikal, but the Mississippi underground had trouble pronouncing that word‑-check out the consonant-averse "1986" intro to understand why‑-so he made it Big K.R.I.T., claimed it stood for King Remembered in Time, and continued a rapping career that imagined high school coaching as a fallback. No hip-hopper has ever been bigger on getting up when you're down and making every minute count. Could get tiresome, but on a no-cameos mixtape Def Jam couldn't clear, his proudly drawled, lucidly conceived preachments go undefeated. Almost every soulful track grew on me, with the clincher "Down & Out," one of his periodic explanations of why sometimes he sips and smokes instead of trying yet again. A MINUS
As I recall you associated him with the "twisted little cult that wastes time fawning over [the] deeply wretched." Then a page or so later you complained about claims that you're rude or obnoxious, which makes your request for mercy a bit funny.
I will let everyone else decide if this is an accurate representation or not.
You're being willfully bullheaded if you can't parse the difference between Xgau's review of that album and, oh, Metallica's Load. Or, more precisely, if you can't see why his What's Happening To Our World? review would entice you to listen to it while his Load review makes you glad you dodged a very boring bullet.
Yeah, yeah, I'm a humorless, camp-hating, social conservative who just got back from his puppy-stomping session. I'm not losing any sleep worrying about such accusations.
I just talk up records that don't need any excuses or special pleading. Here's a couple that are very good, and very camp, that could and should be enjoyed by anybody of any persuasion:
Jo Thompson, Slender, Tender and Tall
Frances Faye, Caught in the Act
(I do want to add that this idea you can't dismiss any album without having heard it first is one of the ultimate critics-are-worthless routine.)
I was much more shaped by the '70s than the '60s -- stuck in small-town MT, I might as well have been on an island in the South Pacific. I've always resisted three widespread impulses:
1. The need to declare the '60s (or the Boomers) where the action was and where have all the prime times gone? I thought the "we're too late for the party" tone of the early '70s was crap.
2. The later, backlash attitude that the '60s were an un-American aberration that had nothing to teach nobody and were best buried and forgotten.
3. The still-later smug attitude that the '70s were only a curdled joke version of the '60s that had nothing to teach etc.
Now, I did go the the Brattle Theater to see Casablanca just so I could say I'd done it, but it felt touristy. And I never did get around to checking out the Rocky Horror ceremonies, mostly because the coolster consensus was that it was by and large for straight squares out for their idea of a wild and kicky time.
Such qualifications aside, I found Mr. Tatum's comments, how you say?, illuminating.
This all started when you slated me into a "twisted little cult that wastes time fawning over deeply wretched (music)." I agree that your quote might apply to what Steven Cohan calls "mass camp" in his fab book Incongruous Entertainment: Camp, Cultural Value, and The MGM Musical (Duke UP, 2005). But it doesn't work on a ragingly homosexual male for whom camp is his lifeblood. In short, you wrote off the wrong b!t(h.
Still, that's all slightly beside the point which means I had to jettison a long post schooling your a$$ on camp. Because it boils down to your endorsement of this: "The ultimate Camp statement: it's good because it's awful . . . Of course, one can't always say that."
Yeah duh. Not all awful albums are created equal. So if you know that, then why did you get apoplexy when I pumped What's Happening To Our World? You're being willfully bullheaded if you can't parse the difference between Xgau's review of that album and, oh, Metallica's Load. Or, more precisely, if you can't see why his What's Happening To Our World? review would entice you to listen to it while his Load review makes you glad you dodged a very boring bullet.
And lo. Ann Powers asked the man himself what his most memorable dud is. Why, it's Kay Huntington! "I gave it an E for transcendent awfulness." And, of course, he's right. I sit in dumbfounded wonder at how someone came up with music as funny as SCTV's The Ramblers (http://goo.gl/TuWOm) without trying to be funny in the first place.
Same with another E, Kim Fowley. We SHOULD preserve him in a time capsule as a measure of how uniquely godawful music can be (keyword: uniquely). And if I adhered to the Milo Miles edict of ignoring E records, I would've missed pop songs as catchy as "Bubblegum" (an actual title) and, later, "Motorboat," neither requiring any camp justification.
In closing, two remarks on camp.
1. Paraphrasing Cohan, camp coheres around incongruity, theatricality, and humor. And, chica, are you ever missing the latter! Like I seriously think there are rules for rock criticism (and that they're numbered no less)!
2. It's noteworthy how your original rant calls up a camp defense. Here's Cohan again: "Camp allows gay men to undermine social categories of gender and sexuality that marginalize them by exposing the artifice of the social order which categorize them as unnatural." Or "twisted," as you might put it. We're caught fawning (such a queer image) over devalued cultural objects and wasting time, just like the numbers in movie musicals (gee, guess what my specialty is in). So when you say "nobody's wasting my time when they're wasting their time," we know you're trying to uphold your social order as the natural one. Desperately, of course. Mwah!
Been on a road trip-sans computer etc.-I know how much I was missed.
Catch up time.
1) SF-Gregory Benford "Timescape" mind bending.
2)Camp-people laughing at "The African Queen" in all the wrong places-what morons
3)Irene-med school-no "finger" in med school--good luck
4)If only I cared about 25% of the music our host reviews-thumbs down-bring it on-
of course there's Wussy and Art Brut etc.-so shut up Greg and be happy for what
5)WTF is Alan Baker
6)The beats keep coming-too bad not one memorable song surrounds them
7)Road trip listening
"Some Girls"(remastered and bonus disc) A+
Xgau's A- is nuts.
Art Brut "Brilliant!Tragic!"A-
Glasvegas "Euphoric Heartbreak" A-
Jeffrey Lewis &The Junkyard "Em' Are I" A-
Todd Snider "Agnostic Hymns" A-
Springsteen "Wrecking Ball" A
If you want songs from the above-figure it out yourself-
it's much more enriching
8) April 15, 1912 (100 years ago)-something sunk in the North Atlantic-if you're interested- the documentaries on the screen this week look tremendous.
9) As reviewed in the NY Times Book Review-a novel- "Arcadia' by Lauren Groff- good read. I guarantee it.
'SAAAY, PAL, DO YOU LIKE SHOEGAZE?'
FTFY! Grammar police away! *Flies off* (When people draw out consonants, in makes me ssssso mmmmmad!!! )
why let someone else's tastes skin your sack soI already have a urologist so don't be offended if I don't, you know, become a patient of yours. And I don't think skinning the sack was involved anyway. More like opening it up and snipping a few wires if I remember correctly. That was a long time ago.
'...where it's rare, to hear men so women-positive...'
Wait, what, since when?
'Maybe, the Consumer Guide has nothing, to do with consumption, but, rather, is out of pure irony. I'm sure, Robert Christgau is smart enough, to do something like that.'
OK, this just proves how stupid your argument here is; it would be a waste of time, to do this, as that's what 17-year-old hipsters do from their bedrooms. IE, it's not funny or smart, and it's boring to boot.
'I mean, what is so tantalizing about afrobeat (which, the new album you reviewed, seems, to be cut from the same cloth)? Yes, I downloaded "Guitar Paradise," but cannot fathom it's praises. Am I not a human being, because it doesn't move me, the way it moves you, Christgau? Or, how about Franco? I just cannot get into it; I feel like I need some formal training, to enjoy it. Believe me, I have tried.'
Well, whoopdy-****ing-doo! Basically, it's the age-old argument, that dolts make too readily: You don't like what I like, and I don't like what you like, so that must make only you stupid. Urgh, give me a break! Look, a lot of African music is good, because it follows well-rounded/polished aesthetic principles, melodies, structures, etc. It's not, because it isn't mainstream. (Wow, the irony: When hipsters call smart, non-mainstream music choices--over dumb ones--pretentious!) It's not so much about your music choices, but, like Miles pointed out, it's about how well-written you can describe said music. Either, give it a try, or go back to writing shitty shoegaze songs. OK? Thanks.
1. Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation
2. Built to Spill - Perfect From Now On
3. Pavement - Crooked, Crooked Rain
4. Modest Mouse - The Lonesome Crowded West
5. The Smiths - The Queen is Dead
6. Radiohead - OK Computer (I already hear Christgau sighing and yelling N*Sync is better)
7. The Minutemen - Double Nickles on The Dime
8. Interpol - Turn on The Bright Lights
9. Modest Mouse - This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About
10. Dinosaur Jr. - You're Living All Over Me
There's 10. All time 25 is as follows:
1. The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
2. The Grateful Dead - Europe '72
3. Bob Dylan - Blood On the Tracks
4. Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation
5. Built to Spill - Perfect From Now On
6. Pavement - Crooked, Crooked Rain
7. Neil Young - On The Beach
8. Modest Mouse - The Lonesome Crowded West
9. The Smiths - The Queen is Dead
10. Radiohead - OK Computer
11. The Minutemen - Double Nickles on The Dime
12. The Beatles - Rubber Soul
13. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Deja Vu
14. The Talking Heads - Remain in Light
15. The Clash - London Calling
16. Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention - We're Only In It For The Money
17. Interpol - Turn on The Bright Lights
18. Modest Mouse - This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About
19. Dinosaur Jr. - You're Living All Over Me
20. Television - Marquee Moon
21. Captain Beefheart - Safe as Milk
22. Built to Spill - There's Nothing Wrong with Love
23. Neil Young - Harvest
24. David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
25. The Grateful Dead - American Beauty
But that's cuz I like bloodsportFor the record, I absolutely don't. I do not enjoy arguing with people, online or in real life. I find it upsetting and depressing.
I really wish at the outset, Kevin John could have said "you're misunderstanding where I'm coming from" and there would never have been any conflict.
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.