It’s time for some new music, as entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out recent releases from rap metallers Body Count, folk satirist Father John Misty, house bros The Chainsmokers and hip-hop maestro Kendrick Lamar.
New Album from an Old Artist
Body Count: Bloodlust
Formed in 1990 in Los Angeles, Body Count is the brainchild of rapper/actor Ice T, known to his parents as Tracy Marrow. The band’s self-titled debut album was released in 1992 and leapt to international infamy off the back of controversial single Cop Killer. After attracting condemnation from President George H.W. Bush, almost every law enforcement agency in the U.S. and prudish social commentators looking to make a point, the album was re-issued minus the offending single, sending original copies skyrocketing in value.
Splitting his time between Body Count, his solo rap work and increasingly ludicrous drama Law & Order SVU, Ice T oversaw the release of three more albums over the next 15 years, accompanied by lead guitarist and chief songwriter Ernie C. In terms of band member longevity, Body Count haven’t had much luck, losing founding guitarist D-Roc to lymphoma, drummer Beatmaster V to leukemia and bassist Mooseman to a drive-by shooting.
Despite this Spinal Tap like record, the band have been able to attract some high profile guest stars on Bloodlust, from Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine on opening track Civil War to Max Cavalera on All Love is Lost and Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe on Walk With Me. The presence of these metal heavyweights attests to the regard in which Body Count are held within the genre, a respect earned through hard work and heavy heavy songs.
Sonically, Bloodlust is like a punch in the face, somehow managing the impressive task of getting heavier as it progresses — and this is taking into account that Dave Freaking Mustaine is on the first song. Lyrically, Ice T hasn’t lost a beat, mixing spoken word and rap with a nice line in metal growling. The cover of Slayer’s Raining Blood is a highpoint, as is the caustic No Lives Matter.
Packed with violent imagery and adult themes, Bloodlust is not an album suitable for children or those with delicate constitutions. On the other hand, if you’re an adult that doesn’t mind a bit of harsh reality with their metal, this album may be for you.
Standout tracks: No Lives Matter, Black Hoodie, All Love is Lost
Sample lyric: ‘When it comes to the poor, no lives matter.’ (No Lives Matter)
Verdict: 8/10 — if you like loud music, this is some fine music to play loud.
New Album from a New Artist
Father John Misty: Pure Comedy
After being raised in a strict evangelical Christian household, Josh Tillman was inexorably drawn to the world of music. He first picked up a guitar at age 12, and after being restricted to listening to music that had a "spiritual theme", convinced his parents that Bob Dylan was a Christian artist and bought seminal album Slow Train Coming. Escaping the cultural oppression of Rockville, Maryland, Tillman moved to Seattle when he was 21 and started recording his songs.
After releasing a bunch of demos and solo albums, Tillman joined folk rock band Fleet Foxes on drums in 2008 and stayed with the group through the height of their success. He played on their mega-selling album Helplessness Blues and toured the world, but it seemed that something was missing. Following a 2012 show in Tokyo, Tillman quietly quit the band and invented the persona of Father John Misty, releasing his debut album a scant four months later.
That album was Fear Fun, a collection of folk-rock ditties heavily influenced by the magic mushrooms that Tillman had discovered after leaving Fleet Foxes. With a heavy dose of irony and self-deprecation, the album differed significantly from the morose albums that Tillman had released prior to his reinvention. Gone was the oh-so-serious naval gazing, replaced with a witty commentary on modern life, which continued through sophomore album I Love You, Honeybear.
Not to seem dismissive, but Pure Comedy is more of the same, with soft ballads providing a backdrop for witty lyrics about the gradual decline of modern society. It’s great if you’re in the mood, but at other times there’s a chance that you’ll find it all a bit twee and contrived.
Standout tracks: Ballad of the Dying Man, Total Entertainment Forever
Sample lyric: ‘When the historians find us we’ll be in our homes, plugged into our hubs, skin and bones.’ (Total Entertainment Forever)
Verdict: 6/10 — clever but lacking something…
Album I Expect to Suck
The Chainsmokers – Memories… Do Not Open
There are some music purists who would not consider The Chainsmokers a proper band. Named by Esquire magazine as “The Nickelback of EDM” The Chainsmokers are DJ Andrew Taggart and producer Alex Pall. The duo don’t actually play instruments, but rather stand behind a big computer panel, and push buttons now and again. There are others who would counter that this is a ridiculous measure of a band and Daft Punk aren’t bad, so why not give The Chainsmokers a chance?
Gaining attention in 2014 with the wildly annoying track #Selfie, The Chainsmokers happened upon a successful formula early, blending infantile lyrics with uninspired club beats, then adding a hook that wouldn’t be out of place in the most disposable of novelty song. This pattern is repeated ad infinitum across debut album Memories… Do Not Open — a listening experience not unlike being stuck inside the worst club in the world being forced to drink non-alcoholic cocktails at $20 apiece.
Featuring collaborations with such middle-of-the-road artists like Coldplay and Emily Warren, what is most surprising about Memories is how instantly forgettable it is. Two minutes after listening to the album I knew that some time had passed, but had no memory of the music that had filled it. Another listen showed that my subconscious had been trying to do me a favour, as there is nothing on this disc with any depth or repeat listening value.
The Chainsmokers are probably fine if you’re at a great party after seven drinks or in a club with a bunch of like-minded disco bunnies, but it’s far from great listening in the cold grey light of day.
Standout tracks: Nope
Sample lyric: ‘I’m not looking for somebody, with some superhuman gifts.’ (Something Just Like This)
Verdict: 2/10 — bad on almost every level
Ch-check it Out…
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN
Rising to fame in 2010 following a series of mixtapes and collaborations with artists like Busta Rhymes and Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar released his major label debut good kid, m.A.A.d city in 2012. The album was a huge success, spawning three top 40 singles, including Poetic Justice, Swimming Pools (Drank) and Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe, the first of many tracks that have led critics to suggest Kendrick might be a bit of a misogynistic dick.
After building more of a fan base on 2014’s Welcome to Compton, Lamar really broke big with 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly. Named by multiple critics as the album of the year, the album included singles The Blacker the Berry, i (which won a Grammy), and the hugely catchy King Kunta.
After the multi-platinum success of To Pimp a Butterfly, there was a chance that Kendrick Lamar would fold under the pressure, but instead he took the challenge head on. All of the track names on DAMN are in caps, which is a statement of intent. Kendrick Lamar isn’t going to be polite. He’s not going to be quiet. He’s going to shout at the injustice in the world and cut down his enemies with the finest of flows. Whether he does it with a sense of irony is not entirely clear…
Lead single HUMBLE is a perfect example, catchy as hell with a flawless flow, but endlessly reliant on Lamar’s favourite B word and weirdly reminiscent of I’m So Humble from the Lonely Island satire Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.
Standout tracks: HUMBLE, DNA, LOYALTY (FEAT. RIHANNA)
Sample lyric: ‘Get the fuck off my stage, I’m the Sandman.’ (HUMBLE)
Verdict: 7/10 — better on the second listen than the first. Could be even better on the 10th…
Enjoy what you've just read? John Turnbull's books are now available on Amazon and Kindle. Take a journey deep into the disturbed psyche behind columns including Screen Themes, Think For Yourself, New Music Through Old Ears and JT on NXT. There’s supernatural thriller, Damnation’s Flame; action/romance, Reaper; black comedy, City Boy; and travel guidebook, Bar Trek: Europe.
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