The Passion of the Weiss

Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick. But most of the time, I don't rhyme.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Why Humanity's Alright in 06

The only adjective more misused than the word "legend," is the word "artist." In the eyes of the many critics, anyone who has ever done anything remotely artistic qualifies as an "artist." Needless to say, nothing irritates me more when someone refers to empty ciphers like Justin Timberlake or Rick Ross as artists, when they don't write their own lyrics, don't produce their tracks and don't play any instruments.

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I spend a whole lot of time mocking contemporary rappers, mainly because I find most of them to be more about the money than the art. I've interviewed more than a few of them and more often than not, it's the money and fame that motivates them rather than trying to create some sort of long-lasting artistic legacy.

In all probability, the reason why hip-hop sucks in '06 is the same as it was when DJ Shadow said it sucked 10 years 10 years earlier: the money. Only now, one sees a further devolution of the art form, as the true artists that populated the genre in earlier years have been replaced by rappers solely consumed with money, material possessions and dealing drugs to get more money and material possessions. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions to this rule working today, but in my mind, no exception is more prominent than Aesop Rock.
I've gone on record to state that I consider Aesop Rock to be the finest lyricist in music today. Not just rap music. All music. Anyone who values intricate and meticulously crafted songs, crammed full of dense metaphors and technicolor imagery should look no further than Aesop. He's certainly an acquired taste, but once one gets used to his original style and often robotic dystopian beats, his true genius is revealed. It's ridiculous to compare anyone to Dylan, but if any modern lyricist has the poetic talent to rival him, it's Aesop. Plus, the guy has a ridiculous flow and a voice that sounds like they just opened up the gates of hell.

Recently, Aesop and San Francisco-based artist, Jeremy Fish collaborated to produce a children's book not for children. Entitled, “The Next Best Thing”, a short story about the creative process by Aesop Rock and Jeremy Fish, the 24 page book comes with a 7 inch picture disk that coincides with each page of the book (ie: old school style kid’s books with records for those born pre 1979!).

According to the text on the first page of the book:

Jeremy Fish and Aesop Rock were brought together by a common infatuation with the marvel-of-modern-science known as the “one-cup coffee maker.” They soon learned that two creative types can do an extraordinary amount of complaining regarding their respective involvement in “the arts” over a properly constructed patty melt. Indeed, within minutes, optimistic almost-young gentlemen can morph into jaded, bickering, grumpy old men.

“The Next Best Thing” deals with Aesop and Fish's homegrown approach to “creative block” According to the two, "the artist places all half-done projects to the side and proceeds to convince him/herself that he/she will promptly hatch the greatest idea ever to have been conjured in the history of life as we know it. Once convinced that a stellar outcome is inevitable, the pistons should pump on their own… This method does not work. Upon completion of 2/3rds of said project, one is inescapably haunted by the distant birth of an even newer idea, thereby rendering the current work merely “the next best thing.”

As mentioned before, the book comes with a 7" inch vinyl. On one side is an Aesop Rock song with lyrics that go along with the beautiful and haunting images above. On the B side of the vinyl, they have another outstanding song, one called "Fishtales." I can't say enough positive things about the brilliance of the book and the songs that accompany it. It's one of the most innovative things I've ever seen, particularly when considering it in the scope of contemporary hip-hop. As always, Aesop's lyrics are outstanding: "This is the greatest thing ever thung/fresh out the last inch of pink in your lung/hung on a genius plan/authored a marvel of engineering to rival the great pyramids and cheese in a can. He's in a van cold purging the work of assertive cobblers with a root down deeper than the pockets on his doctors/."

Not as good as "everyday I'm hustlin," but close....Anyone who's ever done anything artistic understands the difficulties of making something great and this book gives solace to these struggling in their everyday realities, incubating larger and bigger dreams. I can't recommend anything more. The price is a bit steep at $25, but the quality of the work is ridiculously stellar. Judging from this project's excellence, their plan for creative block must be working. You can buy it here.

And in addition, here's some Aesop Rock rarities to help you get used to the guy who should be your new favorite rapper:

Off of the Wu-Tang Meets the Indie Culture CD
Aesop Rock and Del Tha Funky Homosapien--"Preservation"

And off of the Illogic record
Illogic feat. Aesop Rock and Vast Aire--"Time Capsule"

Comets On Fire
This Tuesday, I caught Comets on Fire' s set at the Echo and what I saw was one of the best performances I've seen all year. I'm not sure how many people have listened to the band. I know Pitchfork went wild for their excellent album Blue Cathedral and gave a respectable but not incredible score to their latest Avatar. But despite their relative acclaim, they seem to be a band that has flown relatively beneath the radar.

Stuck somewhere between the Quicksilver Messenger Service and Black Sabbath, the Comets ' live show is a tempest of wailing and primal psychadelic fury, followed by more quiet moments, where the band's pace would slacken into a rhymic pulse, before exploding into spasms of Crazy Horse-esque jammy guitar interplay sparking wave after wave of heavy noise riccochet out across the club. And all the while lead singer Ethan Miller would sing in a furious visceral snarling baritone.

One of the more difficult things for a band to do is walk the line between avant-garde experimentation and making listenable music, but Comets on Fire manage to succeed, as their songs reveal an inherent talent for songcraft. But the real reason to see this band is to see them wail and thrase on-stage. A five-piece band, Comets and Fire are led by Miller and Ben Chasny, the band's other guitarist, and also an extremely deft guitarist. Throughout the band's one hour and 15 minute set, Chasny and Miller traded off ferocious lick after ferocious lick, as though they'd taken six tabs of acid on the ride down from Santa Cruz, jumped off the van and immediately started playing.

Without a doubt, Comets On Fire are a drug band and a damn good one at that. Like Brightback Morning Light, you don't neccesarily have to be in an altered mind state to appreciate their off-kilter trippy sound, but it certainly makes it a whole lot better. The band is currently on an east coast swing right now, including dates in Philly, Boston and New York. You can listen to this band's records but their live show will make you a believer. They are certainly worth checking out.

Download "Dogwood" off of their new album Avatar


I'm sure alot of you read Goldenfiddle everyday, and if you don't you should. I'm convinced that Spencer Sloan has a team of high-priced monkeys turning out top notch one-liners day in and day out (god I wish I had a team of high-priced writing monkeys). But if you haven't been reading the site, then you missed this letter that Steely Dan wrote to Wes Anderson (this is in addition to the one they already wrote to Owen Wilson). Basically, it starts giving him unsolicited career advice. Needless to say, I'm now listening to Aja in tribute to the greatness of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. Steely Dan=Definitely alright.

Also in the news were negative comments that Justin Timberlake said about American Idol Taylor Hicks. I'd add something, but I think Defamer pretty much hit the nail on the hand with this one.

Also did you know that El-P has a blog. Well, he does and it's definitely worth a bookmark to see him write about the making of his long-awaited inevitably soon-to-be classic album I'll Sleep When You're Dead.

And lastly, everyone's favorite hipster whipping boys Man Man have just announced a fall tour.
Rather conspicuously they aren't playing any dates in LA. Are they afraid of The Passion of the Weiss? Probably not. But I'd like to pretend that they are. The funny/sick thing is I would've actually gone too.


At 9:57 AM, Anonymous Zilla Rocca said...

I din't know who Steely Dan was when they came out and went apeshit on Lord Tariq and Pete Gunz for sampling them on "Deja Vu." Then they pull this sh*t over that jockitch of a movie "Me & Dupree." Now they're taking it upon themselves to tell the director of "Rushmore" and "Bottle Rocket" how to fix his "slump?"

I guess they had some hits in the 70s and 80s. So did Styx. When did they decide to U2 themselves and butt in on business that has absolutely nothing to do with them? Do they REALLY think that Owen Wilson, a millionaire actor/writer of "Bottle Rocket" and "Royal Tenenbaums", is deliberately pulling out old vinyl of somewhat important bands for movie ideas?

By the way, Ace Rizzle is the sureshot. But you already knew that.

At 2:00 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

Steely Dan were pretty dope...they have a few albums worth checking out from the 70s. I just think its kinda hilarious that they're being such assholes. I do think that whoever wrote you me and dupree stole the idea from their song though, just because that was their crappy comeback album which won best album in 2000 or around then. So it is feasible.

At 10:10 PM, Blogger Ian said...

...or maybe, I know, this is a stretch, but stay with me for a minute here, maybe Steely Dan aren't entirely serious with those press releases? Maybe? A little? Possibly?

At 10:24 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

Obviously they're joking but there's truth in jest clearly. They were trying to make a point I imagine as well as trying to just be funny. Which I think they succeed in doing.

At 3:11 PM, Blogger Wade Word said...

When I hear someone talking about why hip-hop sucks, and i se a pic of aes rock, it makes me so mad i pee hawaiian punch. Thankfully, I can read further and not be so reactionary, and i like fruit juice. Fast cars, danger, fire, and knives also came with a cool artbook. That dude makes it obvious that most rappers are not doing what they should: making art, writing poetry.
Crappy rap fans: If you like to eat Taco Bell, fine. But you don't have the right to think that is fine cuisine. Almost all of the stuff they play on radio stations is not hip-hop, and if you like that, you don't like hip hop. Hip hop died, and has been reanimated as a brain eating zombie likeness of itself.
Oh, I hate so much.


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