Saturday, August 28, 2010

Writing On The Wall

I have to say this. JIM was a great album, no questions asked. But the newest offering Compass, is at least as good. The words I’m fighting off are “progressive,” or “transitioning,” or “maturing,” because I'm not going to play that game.

What makes Jamie Lidell’s newest album stand alone with confidence is its ability to blur all the lines previously highlighted. The diversity of JIM and Multiply shined bright, both of them creative, but also articulate and honest. He was framing previous decades of influences in all the right places, and the music community started to pay attention the new guy in the neighborhood. Compass lets us know, finally and unashamedly, this is where he belongs.

There are flashpoints that occur during a career where artistic labels become easily accessible. The branding that goes along with presenting ones work to the public, is at the same time, both superficial and necessary. It can be really exciting when “the new thing” arrives, but it’s the same force that declares a need for “a revival” of greatness gone by. The megaphone name-calling does matter, but limited titles in the end are just words, and don’t serve any artist with inspiration. The most successful ones are able to find an identity that they believe in concretely, and brilliantly illuminate the contradictions embedded from the very beginning.

Prince is a real target for comparison, and he comes closest to this on Compass, but he also glances with Eddie Kendricks, Bill Withers, and The Jackson 5. Lidell is just as much himself as he has ever been, and understands that being capable of much more, won’t change what’s already his.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Rebel In Prayer

I should have written something about 108. I blame it on Defiance, OH. I initially thought about writing an entry for both, because both 18.61 and Midwestern Minutes are great albums, but decided that the former was tugging on my curiosity.

In a genre of music that often has defined itself through secular philosophies, I found this punk crew provocative because of their devotion to a Hindu idol. 108 are named after the number of sacred Hindu and Buddhist prayer beads and hold claim to a hardcore sub-genre known as Krishna-core. This would seem in complete contradiction with the previous ideologies in punk, which often are associated with Marx or Nietzsche as influences. In this context, I think most punk artists and others with similar politics, choose figures from the European Enlightenment instead of religion in order to oppose over a millennia of Christianity’s solidarity with the state and its justification for imperialism and exploitation.

Contemporary presentations of counter-culture have roots in the social upheaval of the sixties and seventies. While many take this as common knowledge, I only bring it up because the same political implications coincided with a religious curiosity, reaching outside of the Judeo-Christian history of thought. Hindu belief and influence extends much deeper into history than the middle of twentieth century, but its reverence towards the cow plays towards punk’s intersectional relationship of anti-capitalism and a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. All these forces are at work and explain how a band like 108 would gravitate towards a religion for artistic inspiration.

The album title comes from a chapter and verse in the Bhagavad Gita which reads, "The controller of all lies at the heart of the machine, and connects its wires to the living being who is under its spell." It's the kind of quote to straight-edge bands love to scream for, but too many of them take a self-righteous stance that believes what they're doing is "something true." 108 has broken-up recently due to religious differences, but it should be stated that they aren't reaching into hallow rhetoric. It's about the music, which is why they are still touring and in the end, 18.61 is great hardcore. It’s full of powerful vocals, solid drumming, and easily my once of my favorite punk albums this year.

And I love Midwestern Minutes too. Now it's even.