By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Subheadliners in a hierarchy that looked like music's glass ceiling circa 1992 (grunge and art rock up front, rap further back, represented here by Black-Eyed Peas, and then electronica by DJ Spooky, who provided entrance music), Soul Coughing lost some of their mystery onstage just by wearing black. They might as well have donned berets to punctuate their beatnik-parody hip-hop. Frontman M. Doughty's nervous "rapper hand" alone was enough to make one think of Woody Allen's chain gang songs in Take the Money and Run. But what they lost in style, they regained in experimentation, pumping up "$300" with crazy dialogue samples, and breaking apart whatever was left of a pop song in "I Miss the Girl." Earlier, the nine-member Black-Eyed Peas, successors of Dionysian hip-hop like Us3, put on a spirited circus act, at the end of which they coaxed the awkwardly white headliners onstage. BEP had an inclusive jam session in mind, but the others' sheepishness in the face of hip-hop took you right back in time to 1999. James Hannaham
"Big up Vienna massive in da house!" Kruder & Dorfmeister's MC didn't really shout this out, but he should have virtually the whole of New York's larger-than-you'd-think Austrian community was present for the first ever U.S. performance by the illustrious DJ-producer duo. Factor in the hipster buzz created by the duo's recent The K&D Sessions (a brilliant collection of trip-hoppy remixes for clients including Roni Size, Depeche Mode, and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony) rapidly becoming a chic boutique/bar favorite à la Portishead's Dummy, and . . . suffice to say Irving Plaza was uncomfortably crammed Tuesday night.
Despite being dressed more like XTC's Andy Partridge (golfer's cloth cap, stripe-edged fawn tank top, elongated goatee) than a dancehall MC, K&D's hype man laid on the faux patois, declaiming "originality guaranteed, seen?" and toasting like a Viennese cousin of U-Roy. Tubby and avuncular, dancing gamely but ungainly, the MC was too often the precise embodiment of the music being spun: bumptious, chunkily funky, Big Beat without its vital vulgarity. As such, it harked back to the first time Europeans appropriated hip-hop techniques (breakbeats plus samples) while simultaneously removing the rap, rage, and resonance: late-'80s U.K. "DJ records" by the likes of M/A/R/R/S, Bomb the Bass, and Coldcut. (Indeed, Coldcut's label Ninjatune was represented by support selector The Herbalizer, who spun an old skool set so tedious and predictable it really was like being back in school.)
During the first half of Dorfmeister's set (the duo alternated hour for hour on the decks), I kept expecting to hear that hoary sample (first used by Coldcut, or was it Steinski?) of a stiff-upper-lipped Brit portentously intoning "This Is A Journey Into Sound." Things improved drastically when the DJ slipped a skanking afterbeat amid the strasse-rockin' breakbeats, with the bassquake digi-dub of Original Rockers' "Push Push." But as soon as his partner seized "the wheels of steel" (as the incorrigible MC announced it), the party vibe Dorfmeister had built was dissipated by the "educational" tenor of Kruder's set: fussily percussive Latin-flavored tracks, soundtracky Afro-funk, acid jazz, and other tasteful-but-insipid genres. Even the Austrian lads in front of me stopped chanting "Kroo-dah! Kroo-dah!" after a while. The album's killer mood-food, but this night was disappointing. Simon Reynolds
At Eagle Eye Cherry's Manhattan debut last Thursday, the string of seamlessly bland midtempo songs from his first effort, Desireless, played like Mulatto Muzak a folksy placebo for the giddy, squeaky-clean crowd who lionized him as a sepia poster boy for Safe Otherness. I just felt punked out that my latest Cosmic Negro Hope was crashing and burning.