As we enter the final month of 2012 music bloggers are busy drafting their end of year ‘best of’ lists. I imagine blogging communities share similar habits therefore I’m sure the movers and shakers of the advertising blog world are readying annual lists of their favourite advertising campaigns. In these lists you might expect to see Channel 4’s excellent ‘Superhuman’ advertising campaign for their Paralympics coverage which centred around one advert, featuring a 5 year old track from Public Enemy, ‘Harder Than You Think’. 

A track that became P.E’s highest charting U.K single and a motivational anthem for Paralympians competing in London. Lyrically, the song bares similarities to Public Enemy tracks of the 80s and 90s, lyrics that prove how important Public Enemy were in the development of Hip-Hop as a tool for social and political comment.

Throughout the 1980s and 90s Public Enemy played a seminal role in the link between Black Nationalism and Hip-Hop. For many observers, Hip-Hop began, and continued to be, apolitical, ‘party music’ with limited social relevance. However the emergence of Public Enemy, a point of enlightenment in the history of Rap, realised the value of this cultural form in the expression of identity, nationalism and suppression. This new wave of reality rap paved the way for others but more importantly through ‘Fear of a Black Planet’ (1990) and ‘It Takes a Nation...’ (1988) Public Enemy sought to educate a new generation on both the struggle already faced and the difficulties that still prevailed for Black Americans. “We wanted to be known as the Black Panthers of Rap” the group’s leader Chuck D proclaimed in 1998.

Public Enemy promoted Nationalism and identity not only though their lyrics and samples but their live shows (being flanked by Black Power styled security forces), dress style and community activity through rallies and protests. With this, their 1988 album ‘A Nation of Millions’ ushered in a new sense of unity and pride. Furthermore, the emergence of the group evoked a moral panic in America, perfectly portrayed in their use of siren samples, abrasive samples and political activism.

“Knowin' what I know, while the Black bands sweatin'
and the rhythm rhymes rollin', got to give us what we want
Gotta give us what we need, our freedom of speech is freedom or death
We got to fight the powers that be”
                                                                            (Fight the Power, 1990)

One key theme that is apparent from the offset in Public Enemy’s lyrics is that their political rhetoric is fused with Black Nationalism, Black Panther imagery and a support for the Nation of Islam. Through the use of samples (Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, James Brown) and lyrics “let’s get it together make a nation, you can bet on it don’t sleep on it”. Public Enemy seemed determined to provide a catalyst to encourage awareness and activism in the next generation of Black Americans. They encouraged a pride in identity and tradition whilst rousing people to learn more about their collective history. 

Public Enemy continued to confront the questions that black philosopher Franz Fanon posed. Who am I? Am I who I think I am? Am I all that I ought to be? In doing so, Public Enemy became influential, motivational figures in Hip-Hop and continue to be relevant today, over 20 years on from the release of their 2 most powerful albums.

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Where's the Chocolate?

Last year you released an album of catchy, off-kilter pop songs. The album achieved acclaim a’plenty, each track capable of being a future single. You tour, alot, selling out numerous shows and find yourself in the top 10 of NME’s annual ‘Cool List’ (a low point, but an achievement never the less). Firstly, congratulations, that’s quite a year you’ve had there. But how would you follow it up?

Well, when you’re Darwin Deez, you create a full length rap mixtape called Wonky Beats- made entirely from samples from the 1971 surrealist children’s classic “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” duhhh.

For this new project, Deez recruited the likes of Dev Hynes, KOOL AD from Das Racist, and Chiddy Bang to help out. The mixtape is available FOR FREE and five lucky winners will also find inside their zip folder a Golden Ticket- redeemable for the grand prize, a lifetime supply of Darwin Deez music, as well as tickets to local Darwin Deez gigs, luckyyy.

Listen to the mixtape’s standout track “Where’s The Chocolate” by clicking here.

Deez returns to the U.K late February:

24th Feb 2011 – Manchester @ Academy 2
25th Feb 2011 – Edinburgh @ Liquid Rooms
26th Feb 2011 – Glasgow @ Garage
27th Feb 2011 – Leeds @ Metropolitan Uni
1st March 2011 – Norwich @ Waterfront
2nd March 2011 – Birmingham @ HMV Institute
3rd March 2011 – London @ KOKO
4th March 2011 – Bristol @ Anson Rooms
5th March 2011 – Brighton @ Concorde 2

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Take The 'SHACKLES' Off My Feet So I Can Dance

Quit lying down on the street, Crystal Stilts are back with their own brand of broodingly intense, often anthemic, Garage Rock. Only this time they sound almost optimistic. The N.Y based band release their new single 'Shake the Shackles' on October 26th via Slumberland Records. Whether the band have been literally shackled remains to be seen, but the title proves apt for a band releasing their first single from the forthcoming follow up to 2008's Alight of Night.

The single has all the hallmarks of a Crystal Stilts track, Ian Curtis is evidently still the band's mascot, it's just this time the guitar work is a touch livelier. Who knows, this could even cause people to tap BOTH feet at future live shows. With that in mind look out for a new full-length early next year, if this is anything to go on it'll be a humdinger.


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Film Review: The Expendables

A month after most ‘men’ watched it I finally got round to seeing The Expendables last week. The gang’s-all-here exploding nostalgia trip has been reviewed to death, death itself a prevalent character in the movie what with all the shootings, explosions, and CGI blood, but there are some particular things I’d like to pick up on.

Firstly, the enemy. Obviously Stallone was aware that choosing a real country for an enemy would mean the movie wouldn’t sell there. Being Stallone’s opponent is about as enviable a task as playing against the Harlem Globetrotters, however the drug corrupt, stereotypical dictatorship led Latin-American country ‘Vilena’ fits the bill perfectly. The country’s name itself probably came from Stallone logically thinking ‘where do Villains come from? Vilena’. But not only that, the flag is a copy and paste job of both the Spanish and Iraqi flags, as if to say ‘they may speak Spanish, but we’re allowed to go to war with these guys’. The real enemy isn’t the country’s folk anyway, after all, they seem perfectly welcoming to Stallone and Statham tearing up their shanty villages in a 4 by 4, rather it’s the drug barons and Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Sly with the only jump in the movie which isn't followed by an explosion

Next, the group. The fact that Van Damme and Steven Seagal are missing from the pack makes the movie a bit like watching The Sugababes. On the other hand we get heavy lifting from Jason Statham, a far more charismatic star than Seagal and Van Damme, and the most likeable presence in the movie. Statham, does the most ‘acting’ in the movie, and he also does a good job of beating up the cocky basketball players in a scene which is reminiscent of Will Smith being spun around at the start of Fresh Prince. However, some of The Expendables are hardly seen, I was half expecting Randy Couture to go into the warzone weaponless, convincing his buddies that he’d armbar the drug lords into submission. Instead, his main role is an ongoing joke about anger management issues. Another member of the gang, Terry Crews, just spends most his time using and polishing a gun straight out of the P.C game ‘Doom’, which is so destructive it leaves you wondering why they didn’t just drop a bomb and be done with it.

Finally, the story, there isn’t one. Which is fine as it’s an action movie, but they go to a lot of trouble just for some money and a pretty dictator’s daughter (who Stallone’s character is obsessed with after meeting for about a minute). Also, most action movies are improved when one of the ‘good guys’ dies, but this doesn’t happen. You can almost picture these action heroes in a run through, all of whom have amassed over a million dead ‘baddies’ in their films, all claiming their right to be indestructible. The closest we get is when Dolph Lundgren goes all ‘Ivan Drago’ on the group and Jet Li seemingly kills him. But don’t fear, turns out he survived and he’s back on the straight and narrow, where do action heroes go for rehab?

Anyway, the film was fun enough, and is certainly worth a watch, if only to laugh at all the action movie stereotypes planted throughout.


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The World Ends...

Ever since my Now 34 cassette I’ve been a sucker for compilation records. Whether it’s a definitive guide, an introduction to, or a ‘...presents’ there is something about discovering multiple new acts which is always exciting. However, now I’ve grown out of my Gina G/Mark Morrison stage I’m not always spoilt for choice. Of course there is the excellent Rough Trade Counter Culture series, Kitsune Maison and various Nuggets compilations; and next on the wish list is a host of compilation records made up of long lost Afrobeat recordings released on Soundway Records.

One of the most recent and accessible is
‘The World Ends: Afro Rock & Psychedelia in 1970s Nigeria’. Back in the late 60s, as the ‘Summer of Love’ took hold here, Nigeria was facing an altogether different scenario. Civil War may have staggered the Country’s artistic community but, once the hostilities ended in 1970, many exciting new forms of music took root, with the conflict providing a political theme for new artists.

The World Ends is a sort of West-African Nuggets, a collection of psychedelic, garage, funk inspired musicians who sought to combine these new Western influences with Afrobeat, high-life, traditional West African sounds. From the first listen there is a raw energy to these tracks, especially apparent in those featuring The Hygrades and The Funkees. What’s more, alongside these Psychedelic characteristics, James Brown provides a prominent influence throughout. This funk edge, stronger here than in the Nuggets compilations, provides the perfect soundtrack for a confident walk to the shops or the bus stop, ahem.

Whilst some of these tracks were hits which would had made the Now compilations of their day most of us are unlikely to stumble upon copies in the U.K which has led to a marked increase in the unearthing and repackaging of old African Records, especially successful with Soundway Records. However the merging of styles, most of which are currently witnessing a resurgence (Afrobeat, Garage, Psychedelia) results in an album which sounds as vital today as it did when it was first released. It also provides another example of the musical trade between Africa and the West which successfully continues in many guises today. All in all a really enjoyable compilation which may well dissuade you from purchasing Scott Mills forthcoming ‘Big Ones’.


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Beat Connection


If it isn’t a chillwave. A year into the supposed birth of the genre and bands linked with the contested sound are still being discovered, washed up on a beach somewhere in North America. I’m not too knowledgeable on the argument but how a pigeonholed sound qualifies as a musical genre isn’t exactly clear. Perhaps chillwave has missed out on the forthcoming ‘Genre World Cup’ and fans of the sound still feel aggrieved by lo-fi’s blatant handball in the playoff qualifiers a couple of months back.

Now the Wall Street Journal have written a little piece on it all thats needed is myspace to list it as a genre and we're away. In the meantime have a listen to Seattle duo Beat Connection. They've got it all, the artwork, a cool name and an E.P and track name that reference both Sun and Surf. They describe their music as “challenging surf-y-psychedelic-balearic-disco-dance-electro-pop infused with a healthy dose of rock and house music", the lengths some bands go to not categorize themselves.


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Awesome is a word that's banded around a fair bit these days. Back in olden times it would primarily be used by chaps akin to this fellow.

It's defined by a very quick google search as "amazing: inspiring awe or admiration or wonder;" or by urban dictionary as "Something Americans use to describe everything." So to this extent the word has lost it's definition amid a sea of sub-par association. After a quick scroll through the google results, there are no results describing the awesome as a genre of music.

Enter Fang Island. Awesome is one of only a few words I feel that can surmise their music, the others being "bitchin'" and "KAPOW". Listening to their self titled debut album earns it this tag, it is however not one of praise or admiration, it is simply an adjective to suitably describe their sound. The five piece start their album with rising vocals and hazy electronica before (literally) slamming into the amazing "careful crossers" and from then on out the awesometer needle stays atop the gauge, persistently trying to break out of its tinted glass case and perform the world's best air guitar solo. Triumphant cries and harmonies over constantly and rapidly changing riffs and solos that are easily interchangeable with those found in hair metal (or any kind of metal for that matter) are blasted out leaving the listener ready to take on the world. This is perfect for that time when you need that extra push to get something done, be it a driving test, a board meeting or a diving competition. You don't need drinks pumped with tourene and god knows what else, you just need a shot of pure, unhinged awesome.

Fang Island themselves have described the music they make as "everyone high-fiving everyone." Which it is. What we behold is a truly unique and awesome vision of people of every colour and creed coming together and validating the fact that they are alive and united; if only for that split second under the banner of FANG ISLAND. This sounds absurd, but listening to the album as I write this, I have performed 3 individual guitar solos and fist bumped my own father as an explosion went off in the background. Just listen to "sideswiper" and get ready to win, this stuff is the "Lynx effect" in audio form.



Fang Island Myspace

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