tremble clef

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Scritti Politti, "The Boom Boom Bap"/"Locked" (2006)

Even on Scritti Politti's most successful 80s albums, Cupid & Psyche 85 and Provision, the songs for which I had a soft spot were the ballads. On the former, for instance, was "A Little Knowledge." To this day, the chorus couplet -- "There'll be a day, lovers away/You can call me, and mend a broken heart/There'll be a time, long after mine/He will call you, and mend a broken heart," which then boggled my mind with the brilliantly pathetic notion that time could be measured in terms of spurning lovers (especially since it was followed by a gorgeous keyboard part) -- still reduces me to a blubbering mess. On the latter album, we have "Overnite": although its chorus ("Overnite, and while your trouble's away/Under the stars up above, I'll build you another day/Close your eyes, I'll be home before it's light/And all the tears you cry, will dry in the dead of night") wasn't quite as devastating, it still had the ability to inflict flesh wounds on my pussy of a soul. And even on Anomie and Bonhomie, there was the lush "Brushed With Oil, Dusted With Powder," and that's not even to go into the better-known singles like "Oh Patti" or "The Word Girl."

Those ballads provide the idiom for much of White Bread Black Beer, Green Gartside's first new album, discounting last year's Early compilation, since 1999. That is: it's generally a quiet affair, mostly devoid of the punk energies of his early work, the funk of his 80s output, or the hip-hop sounds of Anomie. (Even a track like "Dr. Abernathy," which concludes with some lively guitars, starts as a gentle ballad, while "Robin Hood," which begins and is interspersed with beatboxing, is largely a lolling number.) Green, it would seem, is in a mellow mood.

On this album, that mellowness doesn't find expression in especially instant pop melodies, so it will take more plays before the album becomes more substantial. But I'm willing to award the album those repeated plays, and there are already some standouts to tide me over until the whole record clicks. Foremost among these is the lead single, "The Boom Boom Bap." The title refers to the drum sound on early hip-hop records; that and the fact that Green caressingly sings all nine track titles from Run-DMC's debut album towards the end confirms that the song is a nostalgic tribute to hip-hop. Indeed, the track takes the vocabulary and rhythms of hip-hop ("singing dollar dollar bill") and recasts them as a love song, so that, at its close, Green's declaration -- "I love you still/I always will") -- is both specific and general in its ardor.

Bonus: on promo copies of White Bread Black Beer, track 12 was titled "Kylie Ballad." It's since been renamed "Locked," but my guess is that, apart from contributing vocals to Ms. Minogue's "Someday" on her Body Language album, Green also offered her this song. You can see why it didn't make the cut: although it starts with some beautiful instrumentation, it also gets a little messy and unfocused by the end, and is in general too subtle to costar on a pop princess's album. But listen more, and you might hear the loveliness that Kylie missed out on. That guitar. Typically spine-tingling multi-tracked vocals. A cryptically beautiful line: "I'll close and lock the door/If you'll be there."


  • Well, thanks for telling me that SP have a new one. What a strange title: almost a parodic opposition. The song didn't grab me at fist hearing--but then it's a Scritti song so time is needed. Cheers for letting me know.

    By Blogger harvey molloy, at 1:20 PM  

  • Yes, time is needed -- the whole album is very low-key, but Scritti has earned enough goodwill from us to deserve more plays, eh?

    By Blogger Brittle, at 10:04 PM  

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