Sunday, December 18, 2005

Public enemy are enemies of the public, i know this because they told me so

I have been a Public Enemy fan since 1988, where i actually bought their first album, "Bumrush the show" on vinyl LP, instead of doing the dodge and going tape to tape with mates (ask your parents if you are under 20). I'd proudly wear my black public enemy tshirt, every so smartly, or as they said back then, really grousely matched with my adidas enforcers track pants (black with florescent orange stripes running down the side, with a florescent green strip horizontally across the calf). I've seen every gig they've played in Adelaide (their last concert in town they played for 2.5 hrs which was awesome)(also i think the last time i was punched in the head was at one of their concerts when a wild punch strayed from a fight in the mosh pit).

I still have that tshirt which is now a very dark shade of purple but its is signed by Chuck D, Flavour Flav and Professor Griff - it seems that i will have to fly the East Coast of the Americas to get Terminator Xs signature. I did go off them, in a ways in the late 90s because they went internet only and it was too much of a hassle to get their stuff. All in all i have pretty much everything they've released and enjoyed it all.
So it was with a bit of disappointment that i have to say that their latest "New whirl odour" is a bit crap.

Firstly, the title makes a pun/joke of something that is 15 years old, i can sort of let that go since there's a whole Bush snr/jr thing going on but the opening track is Al Sharpton telling us that Public Enemy is still relevant today. Thanks Al. It all seems to be a bit self congratulatory, especially with a revisit to something they did on "Fear of a black planet", where they cut up talk back radio comments about themselves and put them to a beat. It worked ten years ago when there was an actual furor aimed at the band, back when rap was seen as dangerous because it actively opposed the social structure at a political level, these days with bling bling and gangsta rap causing controversy due to its inherent use of violence and 'bad' language, its a lot easier for white middle america media to point at them and cry evil! Save the children! To most people Public Enemy aren't dangerous anymore.

But this album just feels like Chuck and the boys are telling at us, if not yelling at us that they are still relevant, still important, still dangerous. Back in the day, their first albums were militant and strong, strong beats with hard rhymes. Now they just seem angry, and in the grander scheme they should be angry, but it just feels like they are just flailing their arms around, reacting like a chubby kid in a school fight. Listen to the militant "Takes a nation to hold us back", they are the guys with a plan, they are a force. It could be i'm older and mellower, it could be because i'm not african american but the explicit anger of some of the tracks just doesn't do it for me.

So i'm left with the music, the beats and the production which just isn't as strong as it used to be. Whilst i'm not a fan of the over sampling done by the super producers of today, it was pretty uninspired on this album. The beats were just sort of washed out too. Sigh. And there also wasn't enough Flavor Flav, which is a crime.

I do gotta say though for the price of the cd, there's a dvd with clips and a documentary (though i haven't watched it yet because i dread it will 60 minutes of people telling me public enemy is still relevant and dangerous). Its released on chuck d's own label so at least he's sticking to his guns (he's a hip hop equivalent of a dirty self publishing zinester).

All in all though, maybe its me, I'll keep buying their stuff (apparently there will be 3 releases in 2006, plus a comic - woohoo, and other things).

And then there is this.


The Frase said...

I too am big on Public Enemy, but i haven't enjoyed much of their latest offerings either.

I can listen to "It Takes a Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back" till the end of time though!

(and I ONLY just relised the other day that comic artist- Mark Texeria did the cover for "Muse-Sic-N-Hour.."

Mark Selan said...

i only discovered recently that chck was a graphic design student. and good pick up on the texira cover art. Muse-sic-and-our-mess-age was the beginning of the end for some people but it did proceed the "He got Game" soundtrack which probably had some of their best tracks. i think that the Greatest Misses album was ok but it sort of started the template a couple good songs and then a bunch of shitty remixes and a bunch of meh.

Sigh "takes a nation" "fear of a black planet" and "apocalypse 91" are just gold.