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by Edward Richards Imprint staff

by Brad Imprint

Hughes staff

Mike Watt spent many years as the bassist for the prominent underground bands The Minutemen and flREHOSE. On this album he cashes in all his markers with the various alternative celebrities he’s met or inspired throughout his career. The musician list is a practical Who’s Who of alternative music with artists such as Frank Black, Eddie Vedder, Evan Dando, J Mascis, and Adrock. The album fittingly kicks off with “Big Train” which is an obvious reference to the size of this project. It also places Mike Watt as its engineer. While the train may lose control on a couple of rough turns, Watt is an able driver. Watt manages to mix celebrities with session players very well. On most songs the group used actually sounds like a band instead of a collection of individuals. This makes the album surprisingly cohcsivc. This is also helped by Watt’s grouping of tracks on the album so that it doesn’t end up sounding like some crappy compilation. “Big Train” is the first single to be released, and it is followed by several songs that are radio friendly. Not surprisingly thcplaycrs on these songs are populated by those who have a lot of pop in their music. “Against the 70’s” features Vedder’s trademark vocals to grab the listener with the song’s great vocal melody. The next track, “Drove Up From Pedro,” shows off the session players Watt has asscmbled. This song really sticks in your head. The next couple of tracks “Piss-Bottle Man” and “Chinese Firedri 11,” starring Evan Dando and Frank Black respectively, are quite

hummable as well. From this point Watt starts to indulge himself. Once again he sticks to his friends’ strengths by employing artists who are slightly less mainstream like Pat Smear, Sonic Youth, and Mark Lanegan. Unfortunately it’s here that the train starts to run away. While there are some solid tunes, the most memorable are the ones that don’t work. “Sexual Military Dynamics” isn’t anything that Henry Rollins hasn’t done before and it isn’t one of his better written songs. The cover of Sonic Youth’s “Tuff Gnarl” featuring, you guessed it, Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo, and Steve Shelley from that band doesn’t expand on the original at all. Flea really shines with some great lead bass on the funky “ETicket Ride” but the song is grounded by Mike D’s weak vocals. The train finally comes offthe tracks with the cover of George Clinton’s “Maggot Brain.” It establishes J Mascis as one of the finest guitarists around, but do we really need twelve minutes of soloing? There are some great moments on this part of the album though. The jazzy “Sidemouse Advice” is infectious and Flea’s trumpet playing is outstanding. The big highlight though is the phone message left by Kathleen Hanna that appears on “Heartbeat.” While her spiel is done a little tongue-in-cheek, there is as much truth as there is humour in it. She really upstages all the big celebrities. Even with all the stars on this album, Mike Watt shines brightest. He is the writer of 14 of the 17 songs. Most ofall his bass provides the ‘Tugboat’ to guide this oil tanker around. He lays back and lets everybody show off, but underneath it’s his simple but melodic bass lines that hold the songs together. He has made a solid collection of tunes with broad-based appeal.

I don’t really know how to start this off because I can’t afford to miss a beat on this review. I guess I should just drop the truth - The Roots is not a hip hop crew or a jazz group, it’s a concept - a whole style of its own. Know what I mean? Let me try to explain where I’m coming from. First off, I must admit that I really could not have fathomed in my wildest imaginations what to have expected when I pressed play. I feel obliged to give props to the man who enlightened me ( I’m sorry if I sound like 1 am full of sh*t, but I have to tell it like it is), what 1 mean is, if it wasn’t for the knowledge of my boy Kirk Whitter (Ra), my life would presently be void of a serious dimension of music. He warned mc and tried to case me into the sound of The Roots, and when I say ease, I mean that you can’t really take a full swig of its funky juice all at once - you need to take little sips. So I poured a little of the album into my stereo glass, and let the flavour trickle down my throat. I guess I should have mixed it with something, tried to dilute it with water or something, because the vapours damn near finished me. To this day, my memory gets kind of cloudy when I try to think back, but I’m pretty sure it was the track “Proceed” that I heard first. When I finally came to, I remembered how the shocking, almost overwhelming sound of pure, live in-

struments had caressed my eardrums. What did I say? Live? Yes kids, yes. Live bass guitar, harp, organ, trumpet, piano, and drums. To make it simple and plain, The Roots came offwith da’ bomb, y ‘al I. Da ’ Bomb. From the introduction through to the last track, this record is so dope it’s sick. I don’t know how this Philly-based crew thought we were ready for crazy stuff I ike this . “Distortion of Static” hooks you and takes you somewhere else with its mad laughter and deep, dark battle rap. “Lazy Afternoon” is just that - a lazy jaunt along a soul covered path of jazz and funk. “Swept Away” is like, well, it’s fresh like a hand-picked apple. “The Lesson Pt. 1” is classic beat-box with a twist (you have to experience this one.) Then there’s “The

Unlocking.” This track will take you to another level with its story of the mystical powers of a magical whore. Everything in between is a complicated mixture of assorted confusion; somewhere between non-fiction and fantasy. What else can I say? The Roots are comin’ off cosmic. It’s like this; picture a weeping willow tree with its crooked trunk and eerie, almost sinister branches. Then get down bclow the surface and find its gnarly roots - the ones that penetrate into the very soul of the earth - and you can begin to visualize the complexity of Do YOU Wmt Mow?!!!??! This album was dipped into a dark, bubbling cauldron of enchanted brew, and it came out gold. Ra, I owe you something scrious.

1994-95_v17,n30_Imprint  

rettes and lottery tickets. Both of violence,” she says, call- sion being made on a moral these items will be sold in the ing pornographic m...

1994-95_v17,n30_Imprint  

rettes and lottery tickets. Both of violence,” she says, call- sion being made on a moral these items will be sold in the ing pornographic m...

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