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September 17, 2004 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-09-17

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September 17, 2004
arts. michigandaily.com



.. ... . .. . .

PART 6 of6
summer is usually big-bang time for the music
industry: Traveling festivals, ubiquitous summer
ams, and huge releases dominate the landscape.
Looking back, however, this summer was a little, well,
lame. Sure, there were some high points: indie rock
made a mainstream comeback and hip-hop - despite
a lack of strong singles - managed to release several
excellent albums. The cancellation of the summer's
most promising festival, as well as a lack of one truly
fantastic album, made this summer feel a little too end-
less for our liking.
Enter the Wu
The scattered forces of the Wu-Tang Clan have
given their adoring fans a mixed bag of solo albums,
and recently, they've been tipping the scales toward
disappointing a lot more often. This summer, how-
ever, saw the release of two stellar Wu solo albums:
Ghostface's Pretty Toney Album and Masta Killa's
No Said Date. Method Man's Tical0: The Pre-
quel wasn't on the same level as his Wu-mates'
releases, but it was still one of his most consistent
works. Steeped in great beat-making and reinforced
by three of the Wu's better lyricists, the Shao-Lin
show hints of returning to its former dominance.
Hot indies
The summer has always been known for its killer
singles: Last summer, after all, we got Beyonce's "Crazy
In Love" and OutKast's "Hey Ya." In fact, the hot singles
have been coming out of hip-hop for so long that it was
a huge surprise this summer when the two best sum-
mer staples came out of the indie underground. Modest
Mouse's "Float On" and Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me
Out" bounced out of their college-radio dungeons and
into the mainstream buoyed by hyperactive basslines
and anthemic choruses.
Lollapalooza sputters
There were huge amounts of optimism for the sum-
mer's Lollapalooza festival. Jane's Addiction frontman
Perry Farrel had revived his traveling culture show
after a half-decade hiatus. But where he left off - with
Metallica and mook-rock throwaways - wasn't nearly
as important as where he ended up: with the summer's
most promising lineup of underground bands. Headlin-


Courtesy of Bad Boy
If only prayer brought talent ...
Ma$e's return not
entirely 'Welcome'

By Amos Barshad
Daily Arts Writer


Isaac Brock and diet. Not pictured: diet.
ers like the Pixies and Morrissey were supported by
indie faves like Broken Social Scene and The Walkmen.
Weekend-long festivals - like Bonnaroo and Coachella
- drew well, but Lollapalooza was forced to cancel due
to extremely lagging ticket sales. Several of the bands
- Modest Mouse and The Walkmen included - still
managed to put together successful summer tours, but
the cancellation of Lollapalooza put a damper on the
entire summer concert scene.
Summer soundtrack
Of course, the summer is littered with huge releases.
Here's what the Daily had to say:
The Beastie Boys, To the 5 Boroughs
To the 5 Boroughs works as both a classic Beastie
Boys record and a bold political statement. Party tracks
in the spirit of "Fight for Your Right to Party" and the
Boys' trademark pop culture references are seamlessly
juxtaposed with unabashedly liberal politics and nods to
New York City.
AC Newman, The Slow Wonder
Here, the compositional savvy that made Newman's
songwriting for The New Pornographers so gorgeous
shows clearly. He still densely stacks instrumental lines,
but instead of the synthesized layers in much of his pre-
vious work, Newman plays it cool with a more pointillist
approach, interlocking guitar and rhythm lines.
The Streets, A Grand Don't Come for Free
His thick accent and quirky rhymes make for a dis-
tinctive style that often sounds more like spoken word

than traditional rapping. But once patient listeners have
cleared the hurdle of simply getting used to Skinner's
style, they will be treated to one of the year's best
Sonic Youth, Sonic Nurse
Nurse is the most forgettable record Sonic Youth has
ever made, yet while listening you'd swear it's the most
captivating record of the year - or at least the month.
!!!,Louden Up Now
!!! pulls you into the darkness and heat of their sur-
roundings just as much as they convey the bright lights
and fast pace of the streets outside the dancehall.
Lloyd Banks, The Hunger for More
Banks's voice rumbles far beyond raspy and deep; it
sounds like the man has a subwoofer next to his larynx.
His flow spawns long verses packed with hissing threats
and flashes of real storytelling.
The Fiery Furnaces, Blueberry Boat
Eleanor's sultry vocals cascade over Matthew's
slinky guitar lines on the start-stop rhythms of "Straight
Street," creating an astonishing combination of soulful
conventionality and audacious invention.
Wilco, A Ghost Is Born
A Ghost is Born again finds Tweedy tweaking Wil-
co's sound, scraping away the sonic blur of 2002's epic
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. What results is an organic record
that proves, above all, that Wilco is human.
- Compiled by the Daily Music Staff

For those who had assumed that
Mason Betha's return to the rap game
after a self-imposed six-year exile
meant he had rejected his pursuit of
religion and was
now ready to
embrace all of hip- Ma$e
hop's hedonism Welcome Back
with open arms Bad Boy
and an album full
of church-bashing
club bangers, you're in for a disappoint-
ment. Ma$e, who rose to the top of the
pop-rap charts as Diddy's wingman on
hits like "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems"
and on his own with "Feel So Good"
during the late '90s, is indeed back in
the game with his third album, Wel-
come Back.
Unfortunately, his time spent away
from the mic has only served a purpose
few thought was possible; the man is
now lamer than ever. Imbued with a
new sense of purpose and the word of
the gospel, Ma$e is intent on slipping
his after-school-special level message
into his stale party songs. See, we too
can be "living the vida without the loca"
- dude, a Ricky Martin reference?
Back when Puff and Ma$e were
rocking shiny silver suits and walking
away from explosions in slow motion,
Ma$e's appeal and popularity were
very specific. His slow drawl, omni-
present toothy smile, clunky, mush-
mouthed rhymes; they all contributed
to his overall court jester of hip-hop

personality. He made easily dismis-
sible, borderline-enjoyable rap. He
threw stacks of money into the camera,
popped bottles of Cris' and incessantly
repped his beloved Harlem. In short,
he had the hip-hop handbook and was
carefully following instructions.
In that sense, Ma$e was difficult to
criticize. Yet, in his new incarnation,
Ma$e effectively dismisses any trace
of charm left in his persona with his
heavy handed sloganeering. Few peo-
ple want to be preached at; almost no
one wants that preaching to come from
someone whose records are all bound
for the cut-out bin at your local music
store. "Keep It On" is the most heinous
example of said offense; while Ma$e is
dropping "uh huh, yeahs" over the beat,
the cheesy, R&B hook is telling us that
"We don't have to take our clothes off
to have a good time, oh no / We can just
chill and kick it all night." That's just
straight up awful.
The only value to be culled from
this unbelievably unoriginal record is
the lead single "Welcome Back." Over
a breezy bass line and the theme song
from "Welcome Back Kotter," Ma$e
retains some of his past bravado as
he makes sure the whole world knows
he's, like, totally back. Otherwise, this
album is difficult to listen to; weak
rhymes about staying sober over the
most bland, done-to-death beats is
simply not a compelling combination.
Ma$e puts it best himself when, on
"Gotta Survive", he tells us, "As much
as ya'll don't want to hear this, I can't
do nuthin' by myself ... It's all through
Him." You're right, man, we don't want
to hear this.

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