Saturday, January 17, 2009

We Go Sampling With You

So you kids (all me and 2 more of you) know that I have a very, verry, vurry special place in my heart for Massive Attack. I feel a bit guilty because I'm not sure I've ever eloquently, concisely explained why their best work is so innovative and sublime. Understand that their work through the '90s opened up countless avenues of what kind of music you can make with a hip-hop aesthetic, and that freedom continues to inform most of the great music being made today. You could chalk it up to the unstoppable march of pop history and claim that if they hadn't broken out, somebody else would have come along with the same set of tricks. Yeah, whatever, they did it, and they did it the best. And let's not forget their awesome collabo with Mos Def on the soundtrack to one of my favorite films ever, Blade II (prepare for shitty still-based youtube clip of a great song ((or just don't watch and continue reading))):

AnyHA, Mainstream Isn't So Bad...Is It? has done us the favor of catching us up to impending MA releases. I'm very interested to hear Weather Underground, the new album. Their discography over the last decade has been spotty. The underrated 100th Window was about half very good and half mediocre (Sinead O'Connor kind of fucked up that album), rather than completely mediocre as the newspapers said. Danny the Dog was a half-assed soundtrack for the Jet Li/Bob Hoskins movie that was released in America as Unleashed that smacked of getting rid of old instrumentals. The wait for a new proper album has, timewise, reached almost Portishead proportions, with the key difference being that critics don't seem to give a damn about Massive Attack anymore.

This is understandable, given the tepid reception of 100th Window. I myself am worried and primed for dissapointment. Although Massive Attack, long before Broken Social Scene, brought the pop band as amorphous collective idea to valid attention (they always use a ton of guest musicians and spawned from a Bristol soundsystem called The Wild Bunch), it is also true that all of their great stuff had a core of 3: Daddy G, Mushroom, and 3-D. They started to drift out of critical and public favor when that trinity was broken. Mushroom, the soul voice, took off before 100th and much of this decade's Massive output has been just 3-D (the white guy) and a producer who came aboard on Mezzanine. After all of this time and delay, however, it seems like Weather Underground has the potential to be great if it returns to the collective dictated by three guys with great taste formula.

So Weather Underground is a big question mark until it comes out. Perhaps to hedge their bets, another Massive related compilation will be released this year that is a sure shot. Protected: Massive Samples will be a single disc collection of sample sources, similar to the Shaolin Soul discs that compiled the Wu-Tang samples. Whatever your opinion of their music, this should spotlight their original talent: great DJ taste. I turn my case over to the promo ablum cover, which takes the iconic Massive biohazard logo and fits in the names of the artists included. This is the comp I'm looking forward to most in 2009.

On a final note, I find that many of the musicians, particularly of the hip-hop persuasion, that made an impression on me have 3 masterpieces surrounded by a lot of material that, while good, isn't quite permanent. See Public Enemy and A Tribe Called Quest for evidence of this phenomenon. This is not because hip-hop lacks the staying power of rock, but because it is a much harder genre to do great in, and it relies on multi-pronged collectives at a particular moment in time to pull off. The point is that Blue Lines, Protection, and Mezzanine are pretty unfuckwithable. I love Massive Attack. You got a problem with that?

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