Monday, April 24, 2006
More Than a "Legend"
Imani Coppola’s debut album should have pushed her beyond one-hit wonder status
Whenever I'm convinced that there's no good music being made anymore, I tend to check out at older acts to see if I missed something or someone. A lot of music comes out in one year, and while we may not appreciate it at the time, sometimes a song grabs our attention and we ignore it, only to be haunted by it years later. Such was the case with Imani Coppola's "Legend of a Cowgirl."
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Initially, I resented "Cowgirl" - I was never a fan of "sampling" and Coppola's blatant use of Donovan's "Sunshine Superman" (one of my favorites by him) incensed me. Yet I couldn't deny that there was something about Coppola's use of this psychedelic classic in her own surreal daydream of feminine bravado that appealed to me - in some ways she almost enhanced it.
"Legend of a Cowgirl" managed to be Coppola's only hit of her debut album, Chupacabra, and perhaps because of this, or perhaps because she was only a sophomore in college when the album was released, Coppola fell into relative obscurity, becoming one of those dreaded "one-hit wonders."
Years later, when I found myself looking for some of my favorite songs of the '90's, I stumbled across "Legend of a Cowgirl," and I wondered if Coppola really was the flash-in-the-pan most one-hit wonders tend to be. After sampling a few other songs of Chupacabra, I was convinced - Coppola was a lost talent.
Chupacabra starts out with "I'm a Tree," a funky song about getting back to nature. Here too, Coppola samples, this time from the Doors' "Soul Kitchen," and I was suspicious that it was all she does, but aside from this and "Cowgirl," Chupacabra to the best of my knowledge, is 100% original.
What Coppola does is blend rap, hip-hop, funk, and even a little classic rock into some of the catchiest fun music ever heard. Her lyrics are both flippant and introspective at the same time. On "Karma and the Blizzard," Coppola raps, "Stranger gives a homeless man a ticket to Hawaii/Giving him an option to sleep on the streets or sleep on the beach." Or on "Soon," "Little tiny creatures with very big eyes/Extremely intellectual, despite their size/Holding in their heads the knowledge of the universe/And watching it for so long, and yes it's gotten worse."
Most one-hit wonders are so because their one song differs so much from the rest of their material. Such is not the case with Chupacabra - if you like "Legend of a Cowgirl" you should enjoy the rest of the album. There really aren't any bad songs, though the "hidden" track "My Day at the Ocean" may be a little too bizarre for more than one listen.
Imani Coppola's debut raises one question - why wasn't she bigger? Coppola released another album in 2004, Afrodite, in which she still blends several styles in her own unique way, but for some reason doesn't have the same fresh fun of Chupacabra. Perhaps having your music career stilted for seven years does that.
Chupacabra is good album to sit back and mellow out with - it's hard to imagine why it didn't do better. If like me, you get tired of hearing the same old same old, may I suggest picking up Chupacabra, and as Imani Coppola sings "Try it, you just might like it."
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
These Guys Are French?
Electronic band goes rock and sells iPods
You may not have heard of Rinocerose, but if you've seen the latest iPod commercial, you've heard them. That's their song, "Cubicle" being played as a virtual city is being built by CD album covers. It's an edgy little number that you would expect from a band like the White Stripes or Jet, but Rinocerose is actually an electronic "dance music" band. And they're from France.
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Like their English counterparts the Chemical Brothers, Rinocerose is a duo performing catchy, synthesized dance music with crunchy, hook-laden guitar riffs. Self-proclaimed a "house-with-guitars" unit, the band has released their newest collection of hard-hitting funk, Schizophonia. It's quite a departure from the band's usual output, focusing more on guitar-driven vocal efforts than the more danceable, disco-like efforts of their earlier works. Nearly all the tracks are vocals, albeit from guest vocalists.
Aside from "Cubicle," highlights from Schizophonia are "Get Ready Now," "Fiction Dancer" that sounds a bit like the Pet Shop Boys, and "Bitch" with a vocal so close to Bon Scott, you'd swear it was a lost AC/DC tune. Other times the band rocks with the funk we used to expect from the Michael Hutchence-led INXS.
On the whole, I am not a big fan of dance music or even electronic. But Schizophonia does what so much electronic dance music doesn't - it keeps the listener interested. While I occasionally enjoy bands like the Chemical Brothers, the songs I like most are when they use guest vocalists (such as Noel Gallagher of Oasis or Beth Orton) - it's a shame they don't do more. Rinocerose does recognize this, which is what makes Schizophonia such a good album - it's club music for those of us who don't like club music.
Anybody looking for dance music to scratch that itch left by INXS, the Fixx and other pop/rock of the '80's should check out Schizophonia. Who knew the French knew anything about Rock 'n' Roll?
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
All That You Can't Leave Behind (Plus Some You Can)
U2 releases entire catalog on iTunes in one neat package
I think it is safe for me to say that U2 is probably my most favorite active band. Recent inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the boys from Dublin have put out consistently good music for almost 30 years. I have most of their albums, and even a few rare B-sides singles (back when they still made singles).
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When U2 released their two Best of CDs (1980-1990 and 1990-2000), each with a bonus CD of B-sides and alternate takes (extended mixes), I was torn - I really wanted the rare stuff, but I didn't want the songs I already had. Plus they were released in 2003 - U2 had already released another album and more "singles" with new B-sides that weren't on these albums. What's a semi-loyal fan to do?
The answer came late 2004, when U2 hooked up with Apple to not only promote their new album and single, but also release the "U2 version" of the iPod and The Complete U2 package on iTunes. The Complete U2 has everything, and I mean everything, the band has ever released commercially - every single, every EP, and every CD release single. It even has several live shows and early demos that are (like all good packaged box sets) only available when you buy the complete set. Now every U2 fan can have every song the band ever released at the low, low cost of $149.99!
For the fanatic, I'm sure this is a bargain (although I would assume the true fanatic would already have everything), but for a casual fan, such as myself, this is a little overwhelming. As one reviewer stated, "I love U2, but can I stand 446 songs by U2? No. There are some incredible songs... but I don't need 14 remixes of 'Lemon'"
That's one of the problems I have with the package and U2 in general - there are three versions of "Electrical Storm" - the original, the "William Orbit Mix," and the "William Orbit Mix- Radio Edit." I loved the version I heard on the radio, which I'm guessing was the "Radio Edit" version, but really, I couldn't tell the differences with the little 30-second clips iTunes allows you. U2 has also released several "singles" that contain five or six versions of the same song, which are also included (one CD included has 10 versions of "Discotheque").
Also, since the package is "complete," several songs are repeated in the exact same version ("Beautiful Day" appears exactly the same on All That You Can't Leave Behind, the CD singe, and Best of 1990-2000.)
Ultimately, The Complete U2 is sort of their answer to the Beatles' Anthology series - all of the band's "rare" stuff, with several versions of the same song when most fans just want the original. The Complete U2 even carries their "Passengers" CD that was kind of their Sgt. Pepper (i.e. - U2 pretending they weren't U2). For the ultimate fan, this is the ultimate package, and even for us more casual fans who would like to have some of the B-sides stuff, iTunes does allow us to pick and choose the previously released stuff, at 99 cents a pop.
I guess it's convenient to have all the songs in one place, but part of me wishes U2 and iTunes would just release all the singles and EPs in their original format, and let me pick and choose that way. That way maybe I could collect more of the original artwork. At least U2 released all of their material, unlike some other bands (where are you Beatles?)
But what happens to The Complete U2 when they release their next album?
Another Spin is a reworking of an older music column of the Partial Observer, written by my alter-ego, "Dr. Spin."
In Dr. Spin's column I often addressed reader's musical questions, whereas Another Spin will be entirely my thoughts and observations on Rock music and popular music in general, occasionally reviewing albums that I think are worth noting and artists who I feel have been overlooked in the past. Of course, as with any other blog, people can still leave comments. I love to know if you agree or disagree with me."