Archive for Friday, February 6, 2004

Local CDs showcase mixed bag

February 6, 2004

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Anything But Joey

"Necessary, But Not Cool"

Before giving Anything But Joey's new EP a listen, go check out the photo section of the band's Web site.

You'll find a number of titillating categories to choose from, including, but not limited to: "Girls Kissing," "Drunken Stupor" and "Our friends!" The collection is a journey into the frat-like brotherhood of ABJ and its fans. 'Hey look, it's Matt with some hotties at Abe & Jakes! ... Whoa! Bryan totally slammed half a bottle of Jim Beam!' And be sure to check out "Bryan Humping Things." Down this whimsical path, you'll find frosty-tipped guitarist Bryan Chesen saddling up to a Chinese dragon, to a statue of Will Rogers and to a big green dinosaur.

By now, any self-respecting music connoisseur would have deposited "Necessary, But Not Cool" into a trash bin hungering for a jewel case. But ABJ's brain-busting local popularity dictated not only that we review the CD, but that we review it fairly and impartially.

But HOW? These guys are to Lawrence music what "Jackass: The Movie" is to cinema. They WANT you to hate them. They want you to trash their record. Then when they sell 10,000 copies, who has the last laugh?

Well, here's the bad news guys: Your new EP is not that bad. In fact (insert big fat pride-sucking sound here), it's actually pretty good for what it is: silly pop rock with Weezer-inspired hooks and bounce-inducing choruses.

In fact, the four songs on "Necessary" are as good as any of the teenybopper punk pop schlock clogging up the radio, maybe even better. Heck, at least ABJ isn't moping about the girls that left them and the identity they're struggling to find. They're willfully immature, horny and they just want to party -- nothing wrong with that, right?

Well, no, unless you're actually looking for some substance with your listening experience. That's where ABJ comes up short, despite radio-friendly production and the addition of some ear-candy synthesizers and pitch-perfect harmonies. Pop-punk cliches are a dime a dozen in songs like "I Don't Mind," which begins: "Lately every movie makes me cry/Even warnings from the FBI/I think it's 'cause I had to say goodbye."

ABJ could take a hint from fellow local popsters Ultimake Fakebook and mix the hooks with some grown-up insight. Then again, maybe growing up would be a bad career move for a band that depends on teens for its fan base.

Perhaps ABJ sums it up best on "Better Than You," a kiss-off anthem to all its detractors that defiantly chimes (over and over again): "You may not like what I do/But I can do it better than you."

Indeed ABJ can, and who knows, it might just win the band a Grammy or land it on MTV. (And if it does, don't forget to send us the picture of Bryan humping Kurt Loder!)

Datload II

"Rhythm & Rhyme"

Datura Records is known locally as the upstart hip-hop label behind records like Approach's "Ultraproteus EP" and The Deep Thinkers "Necks Move." But long before owner/operator Brent Lippincott moved to Lawrence from Murfreesboro (Tenn.), he was already hard at work on "Datcomp," a compilation of hip-hop and electronica artists from across the country.

"Datload II" takes the idea a step further by offering 18 free tracks on the label's Web site. Listeners can download individual tracks or the entire album and are encouraged to burn the songs to CD and make copies for friends.

The album offers an outstanding mix of hip-hop and electronica, throwing local artists like SoundsGood, Mac Lethal and Josh Powers in the mix with larger national acts like Akrobatik and Rasco (both on Coup d'Etat Records, which recently picked up Approach for a re-release of "Ultraproteus"). Seemingly, all types are welcome, from the gangsta rap of Profit (5150 MenTaL ProDucTioN$) to the socially conscious rhymes of Deep Thinkers and Human Cropcircles.

While tracks from Josh Powers, Mac Lethal and The Guild appeared on albums earlier this year, Datload offers excellent previously unreleased cuts from a number of local artists. SoundsGood teams up with Mac Lethal and Godemus on "Hurricane," a lyrical tongue twister with a frantic beat that lives up to its title. Archetype offers the chilled out "Help Them See," a down-tempo track with a sampled hook of a choir singing "Help Them See the Light." Fur1ous and DJ Sku also impress with "Generation Hip Hop," a bouncy cut with Jay-Z-esque production.

The non-local contributions are equally impressive. Akrobatik's "Front Steps" is impossible not to move to and equally engaging lyrically. Rasco brings full positivity on "All I Wanna Be," a testament to the type of father and husband he wants to be. Detroit MC Spitball loosens things up with "Rockin' It," a hilarious DJ PRZM-produced cut with rhymes like, "The way I spit words out/You think I ate eight cans of alphabet soup and made myself puke."

Though all the tracks don't live up to the promise of the aforementioned highlights, it's hard to complain when the music is offered free of charge. What Datload II lacks in consistency it more than makes up for in spirit: Here's a bunch of cool stuff, check it out.

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