Friday, March 21, 2008


Please Mr. BoomBox
(High Score)
Never dismiss a one-hit wonder. Tigra enjoyed Top-40 success in 1988 as half of L'Trimm, the duo who rapped "Cars With the Boom" -- a repetitive, maddeningly catchy single either monumentally annoying or charged with happy nostalgia, depending on the listener's age mostly.

The woman known to her parents as Rachel de Rougemont, calls herself The Lady Tigra now. She has returned to music with a producer/beatmaker called Mr. Sandwiches (aka Jacob Bercovici) and a debut solo record on a small independent label.

Boombox achieves a good balance between picking up where L'Trimm left off and acknowledging that the worlds of hip-hop and party music have kept moving, though not necessarily forward. "I'm Back" opens the record with enough schoolyard sass to make Fannypack -- the heiresses to the L'Trimm legacy -- step aside like the Pink Ladies when Rizzo walks in.

"Bass on the Bottom" is a fun recreation of the Miami-bass style Tigra grew up on. She also tosses off a couple electro numbers ("Swithblade Kitty" and "The Fall of Tchitchi from (So High)") and pulls off a convincing mid-1980s r&b jam ("DNA/Love to Me").

But amongst the kicky dance numbers are a couple tracks that show Tigra's been taking notes on modern music. "They Stole My Radio," her duet with the underrated pioneer of women in hip-hop, MC Lyte, has the deceptively downbeat vibe of a Gnarls Barkley number. It's the catchiest chorus on the record, but the two icons (and they are icons) aren't thinking happy thoughts about the state of radio, rap and music in general. Plus, Lyte name-checks her own brilliant single "Paper Thin" as a told-you-so reference point.

Then when The Lady Tigra shows off her fluency in French on the baroque-lifting "Cauchemars" -- all harpsichord samples and cheerleader shouts -- it's clear that Boombox came from genuine inspiration, collaboration and enthusiasm. What more could you want?

Reference materials: Want to know who helped make Fannypack and MIA possible? Her name is The Lady Tigra.

[Please note that Fannypack is essentially defunct, which their site reflects, and MIA's MySpace page could induce seizures. The Typing Monkey apologizes.]

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Put Those Shoes Back Under the Bed

Great Vengance and Furious Fire
In a live setting, this English quintet probably throws a good party, and inspires many embarrassing dirty dance moves. But their debut album is meticulously ragged and slightly confusing once the band sets aside the er, heavy blooze-trash in favor of a Brit-rap effort ("Girl" which is not without its charms); dirgey psychedelia ("Who Needs Sunshine?"); or just flat-out apes influences ("Dazed and Confused" and "Gimme Some Lovin'" both make a showing). Singer Swaby boasts a respectable falsetto, and the band's done all the right homework. Yet Vengance is only serviceable, not remarkable -- neither as silly as Jon Spencer's limited efforts (thankfully), nor as authentic-sounding as The White Stripes. And no, The Typing Monkey never thought we'd have to type that.

Reference materials: Give The Heavy a chance, this is only The Typing Monkey's opinion after all. But if you like modern junkyard funk and trash-blues, Chow Nasty deserves your attention.

Bonus links!
For a quick history lesson on a rock & roll colossus, read this short essay on Bo Diddley's Black Gladiator. Then click here and hear it for yourself. The Heavy is just one of many standing on Mr. Diddley's shoulders.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Secret Ingredient Is French

Toutes Mes Aventures
(Le Pop)

Fredda's not as consciously groovy or detachedly cool as some of the more familiar French musical exports from the past decade. The singer/songwriter recorded Aventures on a limited budget with husband and fellow nouvelle chanson musician, Pascal Parisot -- making smart use of minimal strings, spare drums and some well-placed horns, banjo and Fredda's casual but confident vocals. Aventures goes for restraint over melodrama, veering from the 20th century standard of French pop. The result is more like a collection of short stories worth repeat readings. While the bit-crunched disco of Justice makes waves from across the pond, and American acts such as Bitter:Sweet make over-calculated attempts at sultry continental pop, Fredda and many of her Le Pop contemporaries carry on virtually unnoticed in the United States.

Reference materials: Fredda will delight devotees of Saints both Etienne and Privat.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Music to Watch Videos By

In Living the True Gods: Stones Throw 102
(Stones Throw)

A spendthrift could find most, maybe all, of the videos in this splendid DVD collection by carefully hunting through YouTube. But sometimes it's better for all involved to just put down a few dollars and own an object. After all, why watch these on a grainy computer monitor when you can play them on your television?

As a compendium of music videos made for and by Stones Throw’s slowly expanding roster, True Gods reflects the indie hip-hop label’s aesthetic quite well. Med’s “Push” emulates the standard mainstream rap video: cocktails in the club with Med and J Dilla buttressed by smiling ladies. The budgetary limits wedge it firmly between cable access and MTV, resulting in a slightly more believable scene that finally charms when Med raps solo in an entirely uncinematic back alley.

“Do a Couple Things” tracks a man’s Ferris Bueller-like sprint to see his favorite DJ, with James Pants’ trashy garage-funk as a soundtrack. (Bonus points to label chief Peanut Butter Wolf for his cameo in the band scenes, in wig and baseball cap, tapping away on the electronic drum pads.)

True Gods captivates most when there’s animation involved. Quasimoto’s “Bullyshit” recalls the the old PBS show Vegetable Soup and storyboards from The Wiz. “Monkey Suite” by Madvillain marches out the computer animation to hint at simplified Fritz Lang moods, with appropriately bleak, compelling effect. And Madlib leaps into the back seat of Quasimoto’s iconic pink Cadillac for an inner-city cruise in “Take It Back” -- with View-Master depth and child-like simplicity.

The bonus features include a solid interview with J Dilla that’s fascinating, but probably only to fans. More interesting is the archive footage of Peanut Butter Wolf and his late musical cohort Charizma, working and goofing off in the studio during a 1992 recording session. Rap will never be that playful again, or have so much hope behind it.

Reference materials: In Living the True Gods will appeal to Adult Swim viewers in the mood for more late-night eye candy and hip-hop curious Gorillaz fans.


In the unlikely event The Typing Monkey has not convinced you, please enjoy "Nothing Like This" by J Dilla, which is included in the DVD: