East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Top ten: Piety funds terrorism

Two very strong song of the year contenders. A good month then.

1. M.I.A., "Bird Flu": Maya lifts her game again, the drum-chorus polyrhythms more complex than anything she's rapped over before, which makes her on-the-beat cheek more endearing. Barely melodic, pitch matters -- it's treble as feminism. I came up with a name for the genre: Worldtown! Turns out that's her YouTube handle.
2, 3, 4. Arcade Fire, "(Antichrist Television Blues)", "No Cars Go", "Keep the Car Running": Huh, Win Butler managed to more or less solve his vocal problems. This is partly thanks to better lyrics, but the remake of "No Cars Go" shows how far they've come in terms of power and grandeur (and budget). Neon Bible is pretty close to a great album, especially if you skip the tracks with the horror organ -- way too E. Power Biggs for my liking. But "Keep the Car Running" shows what a band can do with -- is it a harpsichord? Or a weirdly treated piano? The song is a peak among Butler's stories of unease, the backbeated momentum matching the confession of the archetypal wanted man. What's old is new again: a world where a fair trial isn't something you can expect anymore. Life is no longer about whether God and the government are on our side, it's about whether we're on their side. This inspires the album's finest song: the "Antichrist" is scared shitless of losing his groomed-for-CCM-stardom daughter -- to terrorist attack, but more likely to the secular, sexual world outside her cage. The song nails the fear that feeds religions and politicians. Nobody can afford to be rational unless they have some kind of personal security -- everyone needs a place where no cars go.
5. Beirut, "Elephant Gun": Zach Condon hasn't solved his vocal problems, but somehow having a real band, however temporarily, means this isn't as important as it was. Plus he can focus on his trumpet, from which he wrings a lovely, mournful tone. Love him while you can, before he starts singing cafe songs.
6. Lee Scratch Perry, "Fight to the Finish": Less UFC than Celebrity Deathmatch, Perry gets hold of a melody, like he does once or twice every decade, and atmospheres it until it taps out. Featuring the best "boo boo boo" since "Sweet Home Alabama".
7. James McMurtry, "Six Year Drought": It took me a while, but now I prefer this to "We Can't Make It Here"'s biting, tuneless commentary on neoliberalism. Literary but no less trenchant, "Drought" is more in his dad Larry's vein, with the labour of which a summer worker was so proud proving futile in the battle to keep a dry town alive.
8. Justice vs Simian, "We Are Your Friends": You believe in don't bore us, get to the chorus? Well, this is all chorus.
9. Devin the Dude ft. Snoop Dogg & Andre 3000, "What a Job": Over a "beat like a campfire" (more like a bong fire ha ha ha), the trio list the perks of their chosen careers. While Devin and Snoop extol substance abuse, Dre's pleasure comes from seeing what his work has meant to people. Even if they don't pay for it.
10. The Pierces, "Boring": Funniest song of the year to date -- "Sexy boy? Girl-on-girl? Menage a trois? Boring."

Ten more: Arcade Fire, "Black Mirror"; Battles, "Atlas"; CSS, "Let's Make Love (and Listen to Death from Above)"; Lupe Fiasco, "Hurt Me Soul"; Ibrahim Electric, "Pet Pettostan"; Junior Boys, "In the Morning"; Nils Petter Molvaer, "Kakonita"; Lee Scratch Perry, "I Am a Psychiatrist"; The Vandermark 5, "Silverization/Volunteered Slavery", "The Bridge".

Not a great song, but the shouty "elsewhere" bit at the end of the bridge is amazing: Marit Larsen, "Don't Save Me".