Sunday, May 29, 2005

I'm listening to a CD a guy I work with, Mike, gave me a few weeks ago, Urban Verbs, the self-titled album by a band he used to go see back in the early 80's. They were a Washington, D.C. new wave band that formed in '78 and released two albums on Warner Brothers in 1980 and 1981, respectively, and then were dropped and broke up. Mike had a burned copy of their first self-titled album on CD, but recently he got a proper copy with artwork, and gave the old burned version to me, I think because I'm the only one at work that he can talk to about music from that era who ever has any idea what he's talking about. Apparently the Urban Verbs suffered from a lot of comparisons to the Talking Heads at the time, stemming largely from the fact that singer Roddy Frantz was the brother of Chris Frantz. And they were signed based on a 2 song demo produced by Brian Eno, although he ended up not producing anything else for them. They don't really sound especially Heads-y to me, though, more like the British post-punk groups at the time, like Wire after they got synths. Roddy Frantz's vocals are a little Byrne-ish at times, though. He has this funny schtick on some songs where he sings a line in a kind of normal voice, and then shouts the next line, like "hold hands in public..BUT THEN WE’LL LOOK LIKE WE’RE MARRIED!", or "is this love...OR JUST A FEELING?". They seem kind of forgotten by history; both albums went out of print for 20 years, and although Rykodisc once expressed interest in reissuing them, a tiny indie label specializing in reissues called Wounded Bird Records ended up reissuing only the first one recently. It's kind of a weird timepiece to listen to, definitely of its era, and it hasn't aged well. There are a couple songs that I kinda like ("The Angry Young Men" and "The Good Life"), and some of them are kind of entertaining in a goofy way, but I don't think I'll get motivated to listen to it very often.


I'm together with your plan

Friday, May 27, 2005
Over the weekend when my brother was out here for my graduation, his Saber Spoon, easily the best/weirdest Star Wars cross-promotional item out there right now, was the envy of everyone. He'd been telling me about it for a few weeks, but every time I went to the grocery store, the only specially marked boxes of Corn Pops I could find were the Shark's Tale toys from a few months ago, which, well, fuck that. But yesterday when I stopped by the store to pick up a few things, I decided to dig a little further to the back of the shelf, and it turned out that some sneaky nerd had hidden all the boxes with Saber Spoons in the back behind other boxes. So I bought 2! I got a green one and a blue one. Now I can eat my breakfest with the Force.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005
in my stereo:

System of a Down - Mezmerize
K-Swift - Club Queen Vol. 6: The Return
Young Gunz - Brothers From Another
Karmella's Game - What He Doesn't Know Won't Hurt Him EP
B Rich - 80 Dimes
The Posies - Dear 23
The Mercury Program - A Data Learn The Language
The Nels Cline Singers - Instrumentals
Beauty Pill - The Unsustainable Lifestyle
Brendan Benson - One Mississippi

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Movie Diary

Monday, May 23, 2005
1) Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
My brother already saw a midnight screening on Wednesday before flying out this weekend, but he's the kind of geek who's gonna see it multiple times, so I went with him for his 2nd and my first viewing last night. I'm not a huge SW fan but I figure if I'm gonna see it eventually I should see it in a theater. Of course, we got there during trailers and had to sit in the 2nd row staring straight up at the screen right in front of our faces, but it was still cool. I was satisfied with all the light saber battles and General Grevious was pretty cool and McGregor definitely stepped his game up and became a focal point. It occurred to me that SW/Lucas has a weird fixation with severed limbs, especially hands. And even with the PG-13 rating there was still a strange lack of blood spurting. Go fig. The best part of my long, boring graduation ceremony was that at the very end as everyone filed out, the orchestra started playing the Darth Vader theme music, which was pretty cool to hear while I was walking around dressed in a long black robe.

2) End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones
On Friday I was about to go to bed and was channel flipping between Conan and some other stuff and was pleasantly surprised to come across this playing on PBS, of all places, and stayed up to watch the whole thing. It's fascinating but also kind of depressing to hear their story told from such an insider perspective, so different to what I'm used to hearing or reading about them. Less mythologization about how they invented punk and so on (although there's plenty of that too) and more of the actual band members' perspective. The depressing part was finding out how much they fought and stole each other's girlfriends and hated each other, which kind of shatters the illusion of them as a unified front, this gang of guys who dress alike and go by the same last name and stayed together for years and years and years, which was always a big part of their appeal. But it makes for a great story, and it was told pretty well.

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Saturday, May 21, 2005
On Wednesday I went to a show at the G-Spot for the 2nd time in the last couple weeks, to see The Evens. I hadn't gotten around to hearing their record yet, but I figured I'd check it out, since I've always had a fondness for the mumbly downtempo stuff on the later Fugazi records. I mean, the Instrument soundtrack, End Hits, when I'm in the right mood, that's my shit. And The Evens sounded pretty much like I expected them to. I think I liked the slower stuff better; whenever they started to rock out a little I couldn't help wishing Brendan Canty was there to really get it going. Before the show Ian was walking around wearing a little red porkpie hat, and I was disappointed that he didn't wear it during the set. It seems like this would be the perfect band for him to finally wear all his funny little hats onstage that he'd never get away with while playing a Fugazi show. Some of his spiels between songs were funny, although I cringed through his many broad and humorless rants about police and/or the government. I mean, I don't even remember him being that preachy at any of the few Fugazi shows I've seen or heard recordings of. And when both members of a band are sitting down on a stage that's less than 2 feet above the floor, it's pretty hard to see even the tops of their heads from a ways back. It was a nice show, though, pretty intimate. And I caught up with Tom at the show and talked for a bit after the band finished.


Thursday, May 19, 2005
This morning I took the last final of my college career, and my graduation ceremony's on Sunday. My brother's flying in from Wisconsin tomorrow, and I've got more family driving up from Delaware over the weekend. Should be fun. I'm taking 3 whole days off work, which is practically a vacation since it's not unusual for me to go 2 or 3 weeks in a row without a day off (although some of those days are short shifts). Last weekend I went to J.G.'s graduation, and I think hers felt a bit more significant and emotional than mine probably will, mainly because she lived on campus the whole time and graduated with a lot of her friends. I've lived of campus for a few years now and I'm gonna keep working on-campus at my student job until the end of the summer, so the only change for me after this week will just be not having to go to class anymore, which always felt like the least significant part of my day anyway.

I'm getting ready for a lot of changes, though. I was in school for 5 years, and have been at the same job for 3 and a half years, and at another job for 2 years, and have been in my current apartment for 2 years. And all of that will have changed by probably the end of the summer. I welcome it, though, I need to get shaken out of my rut. I'm glad I finished school but I was never really that committed to it (which is why it took me 5 years even though I was a full-time student the whole time), and always kind of regarded it as a burden when I could have used that time in a lot of different ways, or at the very least could've worked more hours and had more money. So now I'll have more time to dedicate to other things. I can't wait to start pitching reviews and recording music again next week. I have no idea what I'm gonna do for a day job in the fall after I leave my 2 part-times, though. I guess now that I have an English degree I should try and find a desk job, which I've never done before, but which I'm sure is preferable to what I'm doing now. The job hunt scares the hell out of me, though.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Beanie Sigel review in this week's City Paper.

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Monday, May 16, 2005
An exchange overheard at work...

customer: "long day?"

co-worker: "well...they're all the same length"

I totally could not tell if he was being serious or meant it to be funny, but it struck me as the most brilliant reply possible. Very zen.

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Sunday, May 15, 2005
top ten:

1. DJ Rod Lee - "I Got Problems (Dance My Pain Away)"
2. R. Kelly - "Trapped In The Closet (Chapter 2 of 5)"
3. String Tribute to Sonic Youth - "Wish Fulfillment"
4. Amerie - "Come With Me"
5. Beanie Sigel f/ Freeway and Young Chris - "I Can't Go On This Way"
6. Third Eye Blind - "Graduate"
7. Brendan Benson - "Them And Me"
8. Tweet - "Turn Da Lights Off" (RJD2 remix)
9. Jay-Z - "Dear Summer"
10. David Banner - "Play"

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Friday, May 13, 2005
Last week I was listening to the radio and they were interviewing Amerie. They asked her what CD's she keeps in her car, and after naming a few albums, she said "and my album -- even though I can't play it in my car, I don't know why I even keep a copy there". Sony fucked up her album pretty bad, I mean, like, the actual CD. They put some new anti-piracy technology on it, and the back cover says "certain computers may not be able to access the digital file portion of this disc". But I've heard from at least a couple people who can't play it on their computers at all. And I have to kind of trick my CD player into playing it -- either skip ahead to track 2, or it will make confused sounds for about 30 seconds, before deciding whether or not to play it, which it only does about half the time. So I dunno, keep that in mind while reading my otherwise positive Amerie review in Stylus. I was really long-winded and actually ended up with way more than even Stylus's already generous wordcount would allow, so I ended up just cutting out 2 or 3 whole paragraphs that covered what I thought was interesting stuff, but oh well, it came out good, I think.

Note: In light of the end of Stylus in 2007, I decided to archive the text of all my reviews for the site on this blog for posterity, since I don't what the future holds for the Stylus domain, and have included both the letter grade ratting that accompanied the original review, and an adjusted rating that I would give the record now in retrospect.

Stylus rating: B
Adjusted rating by reviewer: B+

In the three years since producing the entirety of Amerie’s debut album All I Have, Rich Harrison has been seemingly busier than Amerie herself. After turning heads with Beyonce’s monumental summer jam “Crazy In Love,” he quickly became one of the most in demand producers in R&B, racking up an all-star clientele. Meanwhile, Amerie Rogers took a small movie role, sang a few hooks, hosted a show on BET, and patiently waited for her principal collaborator’s schedule to open up.

Harrison’s rep makes Touch’s lead single, “1 Thing”, long and convoluted path to the top ten an even more curious story than it might have been otherwise. After having recorded the song and failing to convince her label of its potential for six months, Amerie leaked the song late last year. DJs and listeners immediately jumped on the song as it spread from coast to coast no matter how much Columbia Records tried to suppress it, first because it wasn’t an official release, and then because labelmate Jennifer Lopez wanted the song for herself. By that point, the Amerie version had taken on a life of its own, and J.Lo had to settle for one of Harrison’s leftovers, previously an Usher outtake, for her single “Get Right.”

An early contender for jam of the year, it’s easy to hear why “1 Thing” busted through every obstacle the industry put in front of it. Built on two 2-bar samples from the Meters’ recording of “Oh, Calcutta,” Harrison’s instrumental for “1 Thing” is barely anything but that: a recklessly tumbling drum fill, barely held into a steady tempo by percussive stabs of funk guitar. And it bangs harder than anything else on urban radio right now, R&B or hip-hop. But then there’s Amerie, bobbing and weaving around the beat in a range just high enough to pierce through the thunderous drums. Her vocals stuff every moment of the track full of mini-hooks, from “nananana-oh” to “woah-oh woah-oh ahhh” to the onomatopoeic “ding dong ding dong ding!”

Both Amerie and Rich Harrison hail from Washington D.C., and much has been made of Harrison’s background in D.C.’s indigenous Go-Go scene. Though he makes his beats largely from sampled and sequenced drum breaks, the live sound and loose feel he often achieves is surprisingly close to a live Go-Go band’s freewheeling funk workouts. But at 100 bpm’s, “1 Thing”’s tempo is downright brisk compared to most real Go-Go, which hovers around 80. Still, it’s a closer cousin than All I Have’s most overt trace of Go-Go influence, “Need You Tonight,” which had the tempo right while the programmed drums sounded far too sterile. And for a thriving regional phenomenon that hasn’t been on the national radar since EU’s “Da Butt” in 1988, it’s understandable for a pair of local stars to take every opportunity to openly credit Go-Go as the inspiration for their more up-tempo, modernized sound.

Truthfully, the way Harrison borrows the grit of classic funk is, both in process and in result, closer to the current crop of soul-sampling hip-hop producers led by Just Blaze and Kanye West than anything else. “All I Need” even features some of the chimpunk vocal samples they’re so fond of. And fittingly, the two strongest non-Harrison productions on Touch come from their peers in Roc-A-Fella’s production stable. Bink! laces “Can We Go,” a duet with Carl Thomas, with rolling, cascading percussion. And “Not The Only One,” co-produced by the Buchanans (best known for Jay-Z’s “What More Can I Say?”), is an early highlight of Touch with a squelchy synth sound worthy of the Neptunes circa 2001.

Although she’s been sporting short shorts since her very first video, Amerie’s always had a somewhat chaste image, at least compared to other nubile R&B divas. And on Touch she consciously distances herself from that image, nowhere more than on the title track, but “Touch” is perhaps the least sexy song on the album. Lil Jon’s ubiquitous handclaps and screeching synths have never sounded more brittle and uninviting than shuffled between Rich Harrison’s lush, reverb-heavy breakbeats. And Amerie’s growls of “I know you think I’m a good girrrl” sound more like a desperate plea for a PR makeover than a passionate come-on.

After steadily building buzz for his outside productions, Touch would seem like the perfect occasion for Rich Harrison to reunite with his original collaborator and cement his status by handling production duties for her whole album once again. But Harrison only helms six of the album’s eleven original songs. And though his contributions are consistently the highlights, especially the dark, ominous “Come With Me,” the remainder placed in the hands of other producers yield mixed results. That Harrison was evidently too busy to produce the entirety of Touch suggests a missed opportunity for a more cohesive and potentially even better album.

Reviewed by: Al Shipley
Reviewed on: 2005-05-13

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Here's a lively exchange about the nature of reccomending art/music/movies to other people, and how conditional it should be, that leapfrogged from one blog to another (and now, I guess, to this one). I participated heavily in the Haloscan debate on the latter post, and I think I did a decent job of sorting out and expressing my position on the matter, but ultimately there wasn't much seeing eye to eye. It's still an interesting topic to me, though. More and more over time, I've arrived at the opinion that context is hugely important to art, and having an expectation of great art to transcend context is simply too idealistic to be practical. It can be tempting to think that everything that's worth appreciating has the same broad entry point and a need for precedent or explanation is a symptom of, I don't know, impurity or mediocrity (this ties into the suspicion that surrounds any artist whose biography is discussed as much as their art, which is understandable, but shouldn't always be regarded as a red flag). But I don't think there's anything wrong with framing one's praise or reccomendation in conditional terms -- not necessarily a direct "if you like this, you'll love this" equation, but understanding someone's taste means having a pretty good idea of what they'll be receptive to and what they won't let through the front door. And one of the things I try to do as a writer, especially when discussing something obscure or new, is to provide a context for the generalized reader, so that even if I can't predict their taste, I give them enough signifiers to let them figure out whether something's worth their time. I guess what I'm saying is, I don't reccomend everything I like, but if people wanna hear me out I am willing to explain what I like about it.


Tuesday, May 10, 2005
On a personal note, happy anniversary to J.G. Our first official date was 3 years ago today. I won't get to see her until this weekend, though. But we're both graduating from college in the next 2 weeks, finally. She goes to school in PA, so for 8 months out of the year we basically have had a long distance relationship. So it's nice that she's going to be coming home for good this time, and we can move in together and all that good stuff, probably by the end of the summer. So far, so good.

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Monday, May 09, 2005
In case anyone's wondering if there are worse band names than Audioslave, I saw a show listing today for a band called the Audio Rapists. True story.

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Sunday, May 08, 2005
Tom talked me into going to see the Hold Steady last night, although I'd never actually heard a note of their music before, despite reading a fair amount of their press. The show was 2 days after Tom's review of their new album ran on Pitchfork, and I can't really speculate on what difference it made on how many people were there, but it was pretty packed. Tom told me like a month ago that he was going to try and blow them up like the Arcade Fire. They played at the G-Spot, which is a gallery in Hampden that I'd never been to or even really heard of that apparently does shows. I don't know if I really got a handle on the Hold Steady just from watching their set. The lyrics seem to be the big thing with them, and if you don't know them already it's hard to make out more than maybe 50% of the words live. The riffs were good, though. I think I liked the slower/mid-tempo stuff more. I'd been a little wary of the self-consicous-bar-band thing, mainly because I like meat-and-potatoes rock and early Springsteen fine enough as it is without an indie filter. I'm surprised Elvis Costello doesn't seem to come up more in comparison to them; there's not much musical resemblence, but Craig Finn's appearance and stage presence, whether by coincidence or not, reminded me a lot of footage of a young, coked up EC from the 70's -- the way he gestures and points and waves his arms and grips the mic and pushes his glasses up his nose. Plus, the whole verbose guy with a nasal voice thing. I might have to check out their record to really get them. Otherwise, it was nice to chew the fat with Tom and meet his girlfriend Bridget and some more of his peoples.


Friday, May 06, 2005
"Heroin. Rent." - what my roommate wrote after "For:" at the bottom of his rent check to me this month

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Thursday, May 05, 2005
I just realized that the only thing I even kinda like about "Hollaback Girl" (which to my dismay is the #1 song in the country right now, thanks largely to Billboard now counting iTunes sales towards singles chart placings), the vocal melody in the verses, is pretty much the same as the chorus from Biggie's "Nasty Boy" (although actually it more directly brings to mind one of my favorite Jay-Z songs ever, "Face Off" f/ Sauce Money, which, surprise surprise, jacks the Biggie hook). I kinda doubt it's a coincidence, too; it wouldn't be the first time Pharrell shamelessly repurposed a vocal melody from someone else's song (see also: that Clipse song from last year that Catchdubs outed as biting the melody from fucking Geggy Tah). Seriously, try singing along "this goes out to my Brooklyn crew" etc., along with it.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005
I wrote a Will Smith review in this week's Baltimore City Paper. I'm pretty psyched about writing for CP, which I've been an avid reader of for about 10 years, and which has always had some pretty good music coverage (from folks like Breihan and Matos, among others).

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Movie Diary

Tuesday, May 03, 2005
1) We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen
Last night I drove down to D.C. as soon as I could leave school and met up with my friend Mike, and then walked down to the Black Cat from his house. We were a few minutes late, and the movie had already started and the little downstairs bar where they were screening it was packed. It was kind of crappy conditions, we had to cram ourselves in the back, and there's a big column in the middle of the room, right in our line of vision, so most of the time I could only see about 1/3rd of the screen. I'm still glad I went, though, and I look forward to seeing it again under more ideal conditions. There are many bands I love more than the Minutemen but maybe none that inspire me more and make me more excited about the act of making music. The live footage was amazing, and since the individual songs are so short, they could be incorporated into the movie without threatening to interrupt the narrative. Lots of good interview moments, too, although I sometimes felt like I was waiting through the hyperbolic praise just to get to the personal anecdotes and really interesting stuff. At the end of the screening, a guy, I believe one of the filmmakers, said he want a picture of everyone at the screening to send to Watt, which we all smiled and waved for.

2) The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy
I have to admit I was kinda geeked out about seeing this. Growing up I had access to my father's huge personal library of sci-fi books, but of course, the satire stuck with me more than most of the real stuff. I mean, it's probably been at least 10 years since I read any of those books, but the prospect of a movie being made of it and being done well was still pretty exciting to me. J.G.'s also a fan of the books and wants to see it, but it'll be a couple weeks until she graduates and comes home from school for good. So I'll probably see it again with her, but I was impatient and had to see it opening weekend. And it was good. I'd read the name of the director a few times in articles but it wasn't til the opening credits rolled that I realized that it was the same guy who did all those music videos as Hammer & Tongs. I was skeptical of Mos Def's casting from the beginning, mostly because I think he's pretty overrated as a rapper and haven't seen any real evidence of his acting talent either, but ultimately I was rooting for him to be good in it. He was really the weak link of the cast, though, had tons of funny/memorable lines from the book to work with and didn't manage to make the most of any of them. Everyone else was solid, though. Sam Rockwell was good, although I was kind of put off by the fact that he kept doing a slight G. W. Bush impression (because his character is an idiot who became president, GET IT? wink wink). Just kind of a cheap joke, if you ask me. Lots of other things I could say, but mostly I was satisfied as a semi-fanboy and it even did pretty well at the box office, which is nice.

3) Sin City
I heard plenty about how good and cool-looking this was, but not nearly enough about how funny it was. For the first hour or so, I wasn't sure if I was laughing at it or with it, but by about an hour in, it was pretty obviously the latter. Like, the reaction of that guy with the swastika on his forehead to getting impaled? Hilarious. Supposedly that winking comedic element isn't in the comics (excuse me, graphic novels) at all, which is interesting considering the creator was so involved in the movie he got a co-director credit. Did he set out for the adaptation to poke fun at the source material, or did Rodriguez talk him into it, is what I'm wondering, I guess.

4) Dreamcatcher
Saw this on HBO a while back while dogsitting at my dad's house watching sattelite TV all day. I can't remember the last time so little about a movie was given away by the trailers. So much so that it feels like saying really anything about it is a spoiler. But I will say that it was completely ridiculous and shockingly bad. After a certain point, you don't care at all what happens but you just have to keep watching to see what else they have the balls to throw in there. OK, i'll tell you this much: there's an alien that nests inside of people and makes them fart until it escapes out of their butts. And the alien, whose name is Mr. Gray, is repeatedly addressed by a mentally retarded character (played by DONNY WAHLBERG) as "Mr. Gay". I swear I'm not making any of this up.

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Monday, May 02, 2005
in my stereo:

Amerie - Touch
The Minutemen - Post-Mersh, Vol. 1
Rod Lee - Operation: Not Done Yet
George Jones - The Essential George Jones: The Spirit of Country
Bruce Springsteen - The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle
112 - Pleasure & Pain
Ogun - Real On Purpose
Apollo Sunshine - The Paradiso, Boston MA 1/29/05
Stone Temple Pilots - Tiny Music... Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop
Two Dollar Guitar - Train Songs

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Sunday, May 01, 2005
Like so many dozens of bloggers and ILM regulars before me, I have become a contributor to Stylus, starting with my 112 review, which went up on Friday.

Note: In light of the end of Stylus in 2007, I decided to archive the text of all my reviews for the site on this blog for posterity, since I don't what the future holds for the Stylus domain, and have included both the letter grade ratting that accompanied the original review, and an adjusted rating that I would give the record now in retrospect.

Pleasure and Pain
Stylus rating: C+
Adjusted rating by reviewer: B-

Any vocal group’s greatest asset, R&B or boy band alike, is an instantly recognizable voice that stands out from the harmonies and gives them their trademark. Often this isn’t the most talented singer in the group, simply the most unique. In the case of 112, that voice belongs to Marvin “Slim” Scandrick, a thin, almost feminine tone that matches his nickname and physique. Positioned up front and singing lead on the first verse more often than not, or simply stating his singsong “112 is rockin’ this” calling card at the top, it’s Slim that lets you know you’re hearing a 112 song and not, say, Jagged Edge. But arguably 112’s true greatest asset is Daron Jones, who may not possess as distinctive a voice but writes and produces the bulk of 112’s albums, in addition to producing songs for Usher and Toni Braxton.

112’s fifth album, Pleasure and Pain, named after a song from their 1996 debut, is positioned as a something of a comeback, rebounding from 2003’s Hot & Wet. After leaving their original home at Bad Boy Records and signing a high profile new deal with Island/Def Jam, Hot & Wet was an embarrassing flop, selling nowhere near its predecessors thanks to guest-heavy up-tempo singles that died at radio. So it’s no surprise that Pleasure and Pain’s first single “U Already Know” goes wisely for the sultry, sexed up territory that 112 is best at and best known for. In the past, even 112’s best up-tempo hits, such as “Anywhere” and “Peaches & Cream,” relied on smoldering sexuality more than dancefloor hooks.

Much of the album relies on those trusty babymakers, but again, Pleasure and Pain’s iffiest moments occur when they link up with rappers and try to make a club jam. “If I Hit” featuring T.I. resembles Usher’s “Yeah!” so closely that it’s hard not to imagine it was intended as a deliberate knockoff. It doesn’t help matters that the lyrics have hostile, misogynistic overtones, and that’s just the R&B parts.

Compared to 112’s warnings “if I hit, promise I ain’t gonna hear nothin’ from ya, no nigga runnin’ up with that drama,” T.I. comes off relatively level-headed, signing off his verse with the eloquent “before you take off your panties we should have an understandin’.” “Closing The Club” featuring Three 6 Mafia is even more jarring in the context of the album, although 112 give one of their best performances on the album, singing the verses in the double-time rap-influenced cadence that R. Kelly has experimented with so often lately.

Although Daron Jones brings a reliable level of craftsmanship to his productions, the contributions of other producers tend to stand out from his in the context of the album. Mario Winans’ chiming, Asian-flavored melody makes “Last To Know” stick out like a sore thumb in the opening stretch of samey ballads. On “The Way,” Jermaine Dupri interpolates Jay-Z’s underrated 2000 single “Change The Game,” creating a nearly identical beat with slightly different drum and synth sounds that don’t quite hit as hard as Rick Rock’s thumping track on the original. But the highlight of the album, “My Mistakes,” is provided by St. Louis production duo Track Boyz, best known for J-Kown’s “Tipsy” and a grimy, almost lo-fi sound that one wouldn’t expect to translate well to R&B. “My Mistakes” is full of backwards kick drums and metallic ding-dong melodies, but they slide gracefully underneath R&B guitar licks and a typically butter-smooth 112 performance full of pleading regret.

In fact, there seems to be a running thread of regret and ruined relationships throughout the album. From “What If” and “I’m Sorry (Interlude)” to “Why Can’t We Get Along,” breakups figure perhaps more prominently than romance in the album’s subject matter. But with the exception of the braying, overdramatic “What The Hell Do You Want,” the melancholy tracks never break up the overall soothing vibe enough to stop Pleasure and Pain from doing what an R&B album’s supposed to do: set the mood.

Reviewed by: Al Shipley
Reviewed on: 2005-04-29

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