Friday, October 29, 2010

Boy Dirrt

Fat Fish & Blok Boyz

Fish Sticks!

Hip Hop's relatively low profile in Albuquerque is puzzling.  I could make an argument that it's the most popular music in the city.  KISS 97.3 has used a heavy rotation of hip hop music to stay at or near the top of the local fm ratings. If we were to survey the stores that still sell music, we would find that rap music out sells most genres.  Somehow the music's popularity has never resulted in a cohesive local scene or a breakout mainstream artist. To that end, Duke City rap moguls, George Fisher and Stevie Melendez have assembled a stable of  rappers, and are now hard at work building up their burgeoning rap collective.  By posting videos on You Tube and producing a steady flow of mix tapes, they've slowly built  on a mix of West Coast Hyphy and Dirrty South Crunk, to spread the gospel to the good folks of Albuquerque and beyond.  Fat Fish Records, founded in 2002, features a roster that includes Stevie B (Melendez) Bamboozle tha Boss (Fisher) Boy Dirrt (the most prolific) Bundlez tha Billionaire, Bill Shakes, G.B.U. (the good, the bad & the ugly) which includes Boy Dirrt, Bamboozle and Jiggie da beast.  Associated acts such as the Blok Boys and Yung Bizzle also have releases and videos out.  In a world where the tallest midget is king, Fat Fish Records is the Duke City's best hope for making some noise on the national hip hop scene.
There's also a number of Hispanic artists who pattern themselves after the O.G. Cali rappers.  Juan Gambino, who hails from Roswell, has had the most success in building an audience outside of New Mexico. Other Hispanic artists like; Romero & Big Rich Tha Don are in the process of developing their talents.  The problem facing the Hispanic rappers and Fat Fish Records, is a lack of local venues, airplay and exposure.  Another problem that plagues Hispanic rappers is that the style is so derivative.  If you've heard one song by Lil' Rob you've heard every song by Lil' Rob.  There is very little innovation in that sub-genre, the soldiers all march in lock step. Outside of Chingo Bling and Baby Bash, none of the Hispanic rapper are willing or able to drop the scowl and try something different.  It's not just limited to the Southwest, Florida's Pit Bull suffers from the same limitations, it's a musical style with a limited audience, that has little chance of  busting out of the regional markets.  The primary difference (beside the musical styles) between rock musicians and rap artists in Albuquerque  is that local rock bands often include musicians not from Albuquerque, thus they will pull up and move if another locale offers more venues or opportunities.   Rappers maintain close ties to their hometowns, openly expressing this in their lyrics and videos.  They pour out their love for the city and state, all the while celebrating the ordinary things about the city that most of us take for granted.  Would James Mercer ever write a song about Albuquerque sunshine?.... probably not!  This loyalty, while commendable, also works to hold them back, as so many local rock musicians have discovered.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Allucaneat- Kidz Eat Free

 "Kidz Eat Free" came out in 1991 on the Ubik Sound label, co-produced by Tim Stroth and Allucaneat.  It stands the test of time, a musical dirty bomb that explodes from the speakers, repulsive and attractive in the same instant.  In 1991, Albuquerque musicians were not in lockstep with the rest of the nation. The local music scene was a speed blender mix of musical influences. Bands were coming up with sounds that were slightly off kilter from the national norm.  Allucaneat was a perfect example, as they transitioned between frat house debauchery and arty introspection with ease.  There's a surprising amount of subtlety and sophistication, rustling beneath the boozy surface of this quartet's only album.  The first thing you notice is Colin Robinson's voice, a rich comprehensible tone that hovers between detachment and intimacy.  However, what truly set Allucaneat apart was Ray's harmonica.  Whether,  floating along in the background or honking away like he had a hell hound on his trail, the harmonica was an integral part of this band's music. The use of a bull roarer (an instrument with roots in aboriginal cultures) also separated  the band from their contemporaries.  Guitarist Damian Wilson plays like buzzards are circling overhead. He furiously fires off every note and riff in his arsenal. Wilson skirts the boundaries between chaos and control, while squeezing an amazing assortment of sounds out of his guitar. No doubt about it, Allucaneat was tight, much tighter than their sloppy drunk live shows would lead you to believe.
To open this album, the band smartly stages a rock opera about self abuse.   Songs about masturbating have been around for a while, some are good (Pictures of Lily) some are bad (She Bop) and some are just crude (I don't wanna be no Catholic Boy).  Someone in the band had a hard-on for Traci Lords, the underage porn queen who reinvented herself as a legit actress.  "lordy miss traci" starts after a raucous intro "told you about traci, my girl traci... lord," the singer pleads and yearns, but it ain't gonna happen "Oh! i wanted to, but she wouldn't let me"   The rhythm section shifts the tempo for the start of  "Yr. Mom" which answers the age old question;  "what's your mom got on?" The closer, "Boner's Hard-on" is a condensed version of the opening track.   "Cumbuahbuah" takes us on a river journey through an intoxicating landscape "It skip glides along on a quiet green stream that is heading it's way to the mouth of the great mother river and then home to sleep" The musical accompaniment echoes  "The End" that opus of murder and incest by The Doors.  The destructive influence of man is evident;  "At this point before, the men in their skiffs, saw the trees on the shore, they towered so tall, but not anymore" A mysterious stranger travels with them, "He's not fluent in their language, though he's picked up on some, he knows  enough, to do what must be done"  Who could the stranger be?, Francis Ford Coppola?  Throughout the song, Damian Wilson's guitar gives the band a sound that's masterfully gorgeous.  While  Ray's  harmonica flits about like a pesky equatorial mosquito.  On "Cumbuahbuah" the group dynamic truly resulted in sheer sonic glory.  
"Doinchay" has most of the vocals buried deep in the mix, making it hard to decipher the lyrics.  Not that it matters, the lyrics are a jumble of surrealistic bullshit,  dark and abstract, like the mind of Picasso.  Colin sings the ridiculous lyrics with conviction,  "man on one knee, his shoe wouldn't fit" or "voodoo lady meditating, eyes in the wall all contemplating" and my personal favorite "standing in judgment with a stomach full of aspirin"  Much like singers who tend to obsess on how words sound, while disregarding clarity or meaning. (Liz Fraser and Chino Moreno for example) Colin turns "Doinchay" into an exercise in vocal calisthenics, at least it had some useful purpose. "Aborigini" opens with the menacing whirl of the bull roarer, every time this song plays I feel a sudden urge to duck.  Anyhow, the fellers were sitting around drinking, when the subject of existentialism came up.  Colin started with "We must perceive God cannot be, for if he was he would besiege" to which Ray answered; "Shut the fuck up and pass me another beer" a determined Colin continued "For if he was, he would revoke, he would deflect, he would protect, he would god!"  To which Ray answered; "Shut the fuck up and pass me another beer"  Feeling shunted Colin exclaimed;  "Hey, I'm feeling a little down.... under, pass me one of those big ass Foster's and I'll show you the way to succeed and the way to suck God"
 "Being on the Ceiling"  allows the entire band to flex their musical muscles, beginning with the instrumental intro and building to the climactic finish. Lyrically the song is a study in minimalism,  "If there was the sky, the ceiling of stars and  you were the aura and you had the way... In my loyal hands, is where you stand."  The frugality of words, coupled with the harmonic motion of the music makes this one of the band's most complete compositions.  Unwavering faith is the subject of "Guilty God"  Jesus Christ had his moments of doubt and pain  "He held out his hands, he held them out for you" fearful all the locals hide their tears of regret. "for you to hold , to help him hold them up" an admonishing voice then adds "you dropped it"  our lack of faith has sealed his fate.  The song stretches across melodic frames as the band switches gears effortlessly, building up a monumental wall of swirling guitar noise.  "Kidz Eat Free" was a powerful combination of poetic imagery, intelligent lyrics and artistic ambition. Allucaneat would also record on the Resin label, releasing a vinyl seven inch. The band which consisted of Colin Robinson (vocals,bass) Damian Wilson (guitar) Ray Gutierrez (harmonica,congas) and Joseph Alan Lujan (drums) also had a track "Ycrad" included on the 1993 New Mexico Music Showcase compilation cd.  

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Blast From The Past: New London

New London started out as a practical joke in 1987.  Steve Mickelsen and a friend made up  flyers with the name of the band plus a fictitious venue and then plastered them up and down Albuquerque’s  Central Ave.  Inspired by intrigue, Mickelsen then decided to put an actual band together. Steve Mickelsen, Matt Smith, Carm Sciarrota, Jeff Mettling & Jeff Donovan (who was later replaced by Eric Owens) brought Mickelson's prank to life.  New London was equally influenced by two UK bands (Depeche Mode and The Cure) associated with the gothic subculture that had sprang up in the UK and was then taking root in the US. New London, however avoided the dark and tormented trappings of that genre.  This combination of influences and musical talent allowed the band to evolve rapidly. New London would soon lead the way at the forefront of a musical style that chipped away at the standard rock formats of the local scene. The band's innovative sound was like a breath of fresh air on Albuquerque's stagnant musical landscape. 
The band's first single  “A Day Without Me” was recorded in a hurried fashion, however, positive feedback following airplay on KANW, inspired the band to return to the studio.  Those sessions led to the release of "The Garden Wall" ep in 1988.  By now local music fans and critics were taking notice of what was happening, New London appealed primarily to an alternative audience who were disenfranchised with the predominance of soft rock and country music on the local airwaves.  Following a series of live performances, the band started working on “The Misery of Joy” album. This was an album they had to make in order to expand their audience and please the growing legion of fans, who just couldn't get enough. However the sessions were not without tension. In order to buy time and stay in the public eye, a double sided cassette single was released in 1989.  "Communication/Underground"  was a double dose of radio ready brit goth pop, heavily influenced by  The Cure during their "Just Like Heaven" period.  The release  earned the band some more local airplay, but the hand writing was on the wall, as they still continued to struggle with the album.
Steve Mickelsen began privately to voice his discomfort at the direction the band was taking. Meanwhile the always ostentatious Jeff Mettling was demanding a much larger role as a lead singer and songwriter. Suddenly the band's future was uncertain.  In 1990 while in the midst of recording tracks for that long delayed album, tensions came to a head and the band imploded. What once had been a promising group of talented musicians was now just another band destroyed by the dreaded "artistic differences."  Steve Mickelsen would resurface, first with The Bellyachers and then with Venus Diablo, both bands were very different (musically speaking) from New London and also very successful. Jeff Mettling segued into the Jeff Mettro Project, his attempt at being a front man was comical and ill advised. Mettling soon found his niche in the new age ambient music genre with Elu, an effort that reeks of pompous egotistical tomfoolery. As if that wasn't painful enough, Jeff is also dabbling in adult-contemporary/smooth-jazz music, partnered with Don Shearer. This gift to the anxious masses is called Pretentious Q, err!  my bad, Illustrious Q.  Matt Smith put together his own project called Dragon Fly Dance, at the present time he is involved in an ambient music group called The Orbiting. Eric Owen, a later addition to New London is still active in music around the Albuquerque area.