BEANS – BERMUDA SERPENT SALIVA MAN / VIRAGOR (Tygr Rawwk Rcrds)
At this point, many should be familiar with BEANS, one-third of Anti Pop Consortium, the trio of emcees, rounded out by HPrizm and M. Sayyid, that would go on to change how listeners interpret and view Hip-Hop. Musically abstract probably only touches the surface of its creations, and BEANS maneuvers through the culture the same way with ease and grace.
BEANS released a single last April and this time around, he’s walking alongside the trinity of musical gods he aspires to reach. The “Bermuda Serpent Saliva Man,” clocks in at 8 minutes, with layers of sound that are different from anything anyone has ever heard or possibly will ever hear again. While it may seem disjointed, there’s a method to the madness, and it is maddening. The distorted beat is underneath it all with keyboards playing a melody BEANS’ vocals don’t always follow directly but don’t really have to. He takes control without having to forcefully hold onto it to let his words rip. The noisiness permeating throughout probably adds to the charm of the song itself. There’s dissonance but it’s not without meaning. If Mozart were alive today, he’d probably be focused on Hip-Hop and this is what he would be creating. It’s something no one else has.
For “Viragor,” BEANS doesn’t need much, which I assume was named after the large bird culled from Thundercat stories. Here, BEANS is much more direct, holding onto a beat, a keyboard melody, a bassline that slides in and out and howling background vocal samples. Although the pattern he moves takes a path most traveled, he slips to the side of the road and isn’t afraid to kick up dirt. This is wood used to create fire, the heat that you don’t want to get burned with, yet you’ll place your hand over it because it keeps you warm.
POM POM SQUAD – DEATH OF A CHEERLEADER (CITY SLANG)
Recently in the news, headlined by Olivia Rodrigo’s cover artwork similarities to Hole’s Live Through This, as well as this new album, Courtney Love needs to sit her ass down and be quiet. It’s artwork; there’s absolutely nothing that’s 100% original these days. Didn’t Hole sound like other bands anyway? And didn’t someone once say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery?
Charged with handling Pom Pom Squad’s debut full-length Death Of A Cheerleader (City Slang), I’m hesitant to give it more than one spin. If first impressions are everything then the Squad first album is a straight-forward pop album that strays away from its earlier experimentation. Not that it’s so wrong to move forward for somewhat of a refined sound but the charm you may have expected from earlier releases, Pom Pom Squad has eschewed. But that isn’t to say the music isn’t good.
The two and a half minute long “Second That,” with Mia Berrin singing over an acoustic guitar, along with the steady hum of background noise showcases Berrin’s range in her ability to sing with sparce instrumentation. It’s what we all love about the Squad’s music. She and the rest of the band, which now includes bassist Mari Alé Figeman, drummer Shelby Keller, and guitarist Alex Mercuri, cover Tommy James & The Shondells’ “Crimson and Clover” but mostly stick to the Joan Jett version. They deliver it well but I’m hard pressed figuring out why it was included because the band has its own music it could focus on. Alas, only a couple of other songs caught my ear, simply for the distorted effects, which I expected much more of here. “Head Cheerleader” is a fun romp with shifting dynamics and a straightforward groove that everyone can get ahold of. It’s the same with “Drunk Vociemail.” The song is clean, with moments of warped guitars right before the verse comes in, which is something fitted with loads of melody I can get behind.
The band shifts around to pop songs mostly, which isn’t a bad thing but completely unexpected. If you want more of that, more power to you. If you were searching for the band’s earlier style, you may want to search elsewhere.
OH CONDOR – EMERGENCY PSYCHIC
I’m always waiting, patiently I might add, for something that grabs hold with a form of nostalgia, yet fully footed in the present. It isn’t a game of mimicry, but something at least filled with passion. Dayton, Ohio’s Oh Condor just may fit that profile I want to swipe right on for a number of reasons. Although the band has been kicking around in one form or another since 2002, it seems it has hit its stride with this year’s Emergency Psychic, released just last month.
The band’s latest album follows up Reflector, a 5-song release which dropped back in February. The EP was just as punchy and seemed to experiment a bit more in structure while Emergency Psychic shows the band making its way through with realized ideas and a strategic delivery on the full-length. With Oh Condor’s latest, the band finds a comfortable space nestled between post-punk and the dreaded (gasp!) emo tag. But let’s not pretend that we haven’t heard great songs come out of the subgenre. In fact, I still listen to some groups that wrote amazing songs. (I even made a wrong turn recently purchasing an old Flu Thirteen album that’s not as good as I thought the band once was. But that’s a story for another time.)
Emergency Psychic is a solid release, opening with the dissonant notes of “Bought and Sold,” which leads one to believe they’re moving one way but then burst into strum-strum melodies, reverting back again with dissonance but melding it with melody. This seems to be the story of the band, which I’m all for. There’s a pop sensibility throughout the album which is something we can all get along with. “Mind The Gap,” with its spoken vocal delivery before the entire band drops into the frenzy for this stormy ride, with harmony filled choruses. A gooey bassline coats “Clear Coasts” which is accentuated by distorted guitars that allow for empty space to linger over drumbeats. All this and the band can get melancholic without losing any of the fervor on “Long and Gone.” Yeah, I’m in.
With Emergency Psychic, the 4-piece that makes up Oh Condor is able to capitalize on its ability to mesh all their instruments together and pull out melodies & harmonies over healthy backdrops of distortion, heaviness, and sometimes an ample amount of dissonance. Yeah, again, I’m in.