DEPARTMENT OF EAGLES
The Whitey on the Moon UK LP
This sample-happy U.K. duo (calling themselves Iron Chrysalis and Butterfly Emerging, with a bio even sillier) sound barely "electronic" at all if played unknowingly in the background; on close inspection, though, they're more disjointed than songlike, and their collage-art and Monty Python and emaciated Britpop tendencies get the best of them, especially when they try kicking out jams in "Romo-Goth." But for dreamy boys who gaze at shoes, they're sure not afraid to have fun. They've got quite a knack for pulling EZ-listening demiclassical string-piano-flute and shuffling-through-sand cocaine-cowboy campfire-guitar snippets out of their crates and glitching them to high heaven until it's time to ride burros into the sunset. In "Forty Dollar Rug," they pull it all together, then add a twerpy little raptoon about Playstation 2 that evolves into the most dead-on Streets parody yet: "I live in a flat with three blokes . . . a fifth-generation Trotsky . . . look out for yer biscut, lad, 'cos I got sticky fingers." Which then turns into a reggae version of the same song.
The 30th Song
A Cincinnati vinyl virtuoso who knows sixteenth notes and slide-guitared blues licks like Department of Eagles know mellow bits, Mr. Dibbs settles for being Yngwie Malmsteen on the wheels of steel way too often. But in the track beginning with Grace Slick at Woodstock, the guy at least demonstrates self-knowledge about his onanism addiction: "That's the time when the real pros kinda noodle around a little bit to fill up the empty space," some stereo-demonstration-record sample sez. Sci-fi and film-noir movies, toga parties, saloon crooners, death-metal monsters, jazz poets, after-midnight smoove-love jocks, and cute old cartoons about trains show up, too, most of them discussing juggling or scratching in our world of wonderful sounds. The stars are a hellhound-trailed Robert Johnson, a Guinness Book of Records drummer, and a menagerie of sex educators and moaning ladies in the masturbatory-in-another-way "Porntablist," which makes the most musical use of cyborgasm effects since "Machine Sex" by the Flying Lizards and of the question "Do you like to fuck?" since "Catholic Block" by Sonic Youth.
Six Million Ways to Live
Once intermittingly Prodigy-like, Busta Rhymes-collaborating, Moby/Korn/P.O.D.-remixing Brit Barry Ashworth put out his fake group's previous set back in 1998, during the glory days of big beat. His boots kick even harder now, even if the new-millennium raps come four years late. But though the follow-up seems destined to fall through the fickle cracks of fashion, it does its Armagideon Time concept justice, kicking off with Horace Andy knee-deep in massively attacking red-clay war-dub hoopla and Terry Hall herding desert goats through melodia-soaring Kurt Weill ghost-town skank. Fat notes get sustained, rubberized, doomtrodded, blackholed; a phone call to Interscope/Geffen/ A&M gets intercepted; stickup-kid slogans lead cheers punching face like Lil Jon; "Architect" 's bassline pounds like Godzilla. And when soldiers march to Mantronixed martial beats on your street corner, you worry.
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