Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"Kids These Days!": Asher Roth

Asher Roth's "I Love College" is the most manipulative, faux-sentimental, pandering shit to hit the airwaves since 2000, when a then-31-year-old woman sang about how sad high school graduation can be, man. Roth deserves credit for one thing--at 23, according to his Wiki, at least his yearning for the glory days of keg stands and dollar slices might be legit.

Too bad it's legitimately retarded.

The genesis of the song was a sample of Weezer's "Say It Ain't So." Perhaps Roth thought, not unwisely, that after the most dramatic descent from brilliance into incompetence in alternative rock history Rivers Cuomo would surely clear the sample. But when he asked the Harvard graduate, Cuomo must have said "Yeah, right, you're using my song, and my name is Jonas!" Instead, we're left with a vague approximation of the riff. (Come to think of it, it sounds exactly like the kind of shitty attempt you'd hear from an open dorm window in college, where some asshole annoys you while browsing a guitar tab site and botching rock radio staples.)

At least the music itself stems from a good song. The lyrics are utterly irredeemable. First of all, Asher Roth cannot rap. To rephrase: I am not saying Roth is a bad rapper. I am saying he actually lacks the sense of rhythm, timing and cadence to manipulate his sentences in a way that resembles a single song accepted as hip-hop. His one-note, syllable-a-second delivery has all the vocal mastery of a karaoke sing-along at a bar during $1 pitcher night.

The lyrics, such as they are, indicate Roth was the type of dumbass who coasted by on 12 credits a semester and still took five years to do it. "Thirsty Thursday." "Keg stands." "Chug!" "Freshmen." "Banker's Club." "Miller Lite." The words read like a word cloud of college cliches. In fact, if we head over to Wordle...

"I can't tell you what I learned from school," Roth claims. What he didn't learn is easier to point out: subject-verb agreement ("my good friends is all I need"), slant rhyme (mangling "champion" to "champy-yawn" in a pairing with "beer pong"), and copyright law (the aforementioned sample clearance problems.)

Then again, what do you expect from a song that sports the lyric "time isn't wasted when you're getting wasted," which makes one suspect if the song was inspired by a bumper sticker, or perhaps a particularly profound piece of bathroom graffiti. Following the college theme, if I had to give this song a letter grade, I would defer to Mr. Cuomo's judgment:

Monday, April 13, 2009

No. 1 Single Reviews: "Boom Boom Pow" by the Black Eyed Peas


On their new No. 1 single, "Boom Boom Pow," the Black Eyed Peas claim to bring some kind of futuristic music.

Assertion: "I'm so 3008/You so 2000-and-late."

Fact: This lyric clearly indicates that this song's puns were generated last year, when a 2008 reference would have been timely.

Assertion: "'Cause we got the beat that bounce/We got the beat that pound/We got the beat that 808/That the boom, boom in your town."

Fact: The Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer was released in 1980, making it 1038 years old at the time Fergie alleges to be singing from.

Assertion: "I'm a beast when you turn me on/Into the future, Cybertron/Harder, faster, better, stronger/Sexy ladies, extra longer."

Fact: If the Autobots are indeed out there on Cybertron, I have no way of knowing what hot jam they're rocking, but it's probably not an eight-year-old jacked Daft-Punk-by-way-of-Kanye lyric that's not even in the right order.

Assertion: "Them chickens jocking my style/They try to copy my swagger/I'm on that next shit now."

Fact: No one is interested in taking your shitty overused auto-tune filter (a.k.a. robbing Fergie to pay T-Pain.)

Assertion: "Boom boom boom, gotta get-get/Boom boom boom, gotta get-get/Boom boom boom, gotta get-get/Boom boom boom, gotta get-get/Boom boom boom now/Boom boom boom now/Boom boom boom/Boom boom."

Fact: Go to Hell.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Concert Review: Dan Deacon, First Unitarian Church, Philadelphia, April 3

Dan Deacon is getting a lot bigger in a lot of ways. The shows are bigger--his current tour swaps his one-man-band aesthetic for a dozen-plus ensemble. The audiences are bigger--the rowdy sell-out crowd at Philly's First Unitarian Church on Friday visibly pissed off a Deacon who just wanted fans to dance without pushing him around. And I daresay the man is bigger--Deacon's packing a few extra pounds around the belly, too!

The opening half of the show was plagued by an over-enthusiastic audience. Deacon performs right in the front of the crowd, hunched over his table of electronics, and it seemed that between every song he grew increasingly irritated at having to ask the crowd not to push into each other or him, knocking him against his equipment. He was, understandably, already cranky from a bus breakdown that delayed the show's doors from opening until 9 p.m., and things didn't really get into a groove until Deacon instructed the audience members to take two steps back and wave their arms around to make sure they weren't bumping into anybody. Granted, half a minute into the next song everyone crowded together again, but most seemed to take the hint and made an effort not to be obnoxious.

It was interesting side to see where a guy who organizes all kinds of fun audience dances and games--he had audience members rooting for a dance contest between people dressed as a circle and a triangle, and closing their eyes and spinning in slow circles to "Snookered"--draws the line at "too rowdy." But, as he pointed out, it wasn't a hardcore show. No one goes to see Dan Deacon to get beat up and come home bruised.

Once the crowd settled, Deacon seemed to loosen up for the most part, aside from frequent requests to the sound guy for "more synth in monitor four!" even during crowd dance-alongs. It shows the interesting dichotomy behind Deacon's personality and music. Yes, it's still a guy in the tackiest imaginable outdoor-sporting-store deer t-shirt with pitched-shifted cartoon vocals singing his songs under the light of a glowing green plastic skull. He's also a music conservatory alumnus who studied electro-acoustic and computer music composition, and his music is absurd but not simple.

It was a pleasant surprise, then, to find out that Bromst is such a fantastic dance record. Deacon's ensemble focused almost exclusively on songs off his new album, aside from his trademark "The Crystal Cat" and non-album (from what I can find) concert favorite "Silence Like the Wind Overtakes Me." The songs are lush and complex, but driving and incredibly well-paced. On headphones, they can be appreciated for the intricate layering and hypnotic effect, but on the concert floor the ensemble pulses and swells, and the songs seem to retreat and explode in the perfect manner to keep the crowd invigorated and dancing throughout the whole set.

There's also a sense of community at a Deacon show that I hope doesn't go away with the increased crowd sizes, as it seemed at the show's start. It's admirable that Deacon keeps himself right in the the crowd, and dancing alongside him and other fans is sheer fun. Deacon gave a spiel encouraging the audience to dance, even those who thought they couldn't, because the fun of dancing is precisely about not caring if you can or not, but enjoying yourself. The speech might not have peeled any wallflowers, but the music and the rush of the crowd did.

Dan Deacon is getting bigger, but that hasn't clipped the sense of joy from his music. Bromst seems more refined and even a bit more serious than its predecessor, Spiderman of the Rings, but it's just as fun to dance to. A huge ensemble on stage just gives the music more force. Here's hoping the the increasing crowds can take Deacon at his own terms and keep the party going.

Concert-goer shoutouts:
-To the fat morbidly obese blimp-like practically-swelling-before-my-eyes-like-that-one-guy-from-Big-Trouble-in-Little-China dude who took his shirt off: I literally overheard someone say he jumped back five feet when you disrobed, and referred to you as the guy who is always at shows ruining them. Knock it the fuck off. I know Dan Deacon is about unselfconscious fun, but being shoved into an unhygienic lump of a man is no one's idea of fun.
-To the tall dude in the tux who was dancing with toy Hulk gloves before the show: Kudos! This is the type of fun I expect at a Dan Deacon gig!