Photo by Jeanne RiceQuite a great thing when a gaggle of local musicians, not content with sitting on their collective arses waiting around to be "discovered" by whatever counts as "the industry" these days, decides to go the DIY route. Such is the case with Dope America Volume One, a compilation put out by some of Long Beach's more stimulating bands (i.e., not by-rote skater punk). A triumph of art over dollars, though we're sure this co-op ain't so anti-capitalist that it wouldn't mind if you bought a copy, nudge-nudge. Rounded up here are all the suspects you'd expect, like Speaker, who are on a major label but are also paying back their buddies with the electro-fried pop pastiche of "My Still Remains." Pretty Ugly's wistful acoustic tumble, "Ocean," feels like the Kinks on one of Ray Davies' more blissed-out sunny afternoons. Even softer touches work, too, like Lili de la Mora's "Where the Sidewalks Blend," a beautifully understated piece that shows how much a simple pop melody can goose a tune up. Most tracks are like slowly simmering aural boils, like Bourbon Jones' spooky, crawling "Christine," Shave's keeping-it-together anthem "Hold Your Own," Johnny Jones & the Suffering Halos' "Seventeen Seconds" (which, with its sha-la-la hook, feels like a great old World Party track) and 00 Soul's "Squad Car," an insatiable romp for your rump. Not everything clicks—who is Merrilee G., and what is this fingernails-on-a-chalkboard spoken-word thingy called "Confliction?"—but what doesn't can easily be skipped. Dope America is deep enough that there's sure to be a tasty nugget the next track over, anyway.
DOPE AMERICA IS AVAILABLE AT FINER LONG BEACH INDIE RECORD STORES. AND LOG ON TO WWW.DOPEAMERICA.COM.
Whatever the reason this San Francisco MC took to calling himself Quasimoto, the name fits because the Unseen is a freak. First, there's his voice, which sounds like Eazy-E on helium. Then there are his rhymes—raps about blunts and beatings, like an army of other MCs—but his take on violence doesn't have that dull, over-the-hill jock edge that makes a lot of modern hip-hop unbearable. His violence is instead more sociopathic: "Bad Character" could serve as his freak mission statement, portraying himself as a sort of figure out of Grimm's fairy tales, passing out poison apples, getting dirty looks from solid citizens and having a big laugh over the whole thing. A little talk of mayhem never scared any rap fan from a song, but downbeat jazz might frighten a nation of millions of Limp Bizkit fans. Quasimoto makes no attempt to curry favor with them here—the guy spends whole songs rapping about the coolness of his favorite bebop and fusion jazzers when he isn't painting scenes of ghetto life. The music follows his lyrical cues—not much R&B and funk mixed in here, as his DJ/producer Madlib takes the best jazz grooves (John Coltrane, Stanley Cowell, even some Chick Corea) and meshes them with a little reggae above a breakbeat foundation. The jazz-fusion-reggae sound gives the whole album an artsy feel, which Quasimoto must have intended. He's interested in making art, not in being a star, which is why no tours or appearances will ever be planned—there's a reason why he's called the Unseen. (Andrew Asch)
THE EXIES THE EXIES ULTIMATUM MUSIC
Bratty, stuck-more-in-the-'70s-than-'60s Existentialists, the Exies sing about girls, classic TV and their own irrational world, squished up against gooey choruses that make you feel all fluttery inside. This album is ultra-retro in parts, like on "1970+," a blissed-out homage that drops both Sly Stone and Evel Knievel and transports anyone around 30 to the days of tree houses, tube socks, multicolored baseball sleeves and roller rinks, when you spent the weekend afternoons dreaming about who you wanted to grow up to be. Innocent, sure, but not all the time. "Rocket Balloon" induces this druggy haze, like accidentally crawling into Scott Weiland's smacked-out cranium. "Feeling Lo Fi" is the catchiest track here (while also being the most depressing, if you listen closely). And "On the Brighter Side" sounds like some glitter-obsessed rock star complaining about having to rent someone's closet to sleep in while struggling to make it in Hollywood ("It comes as no surprise/That I do this to myself/Living on the bitter side." What happened? How did you end up there? You decided to crapshoot your life for the chance to stand in front of horny, screaming girls, remember?). What the Exies have done is cross Cheap Trick with the Foo Fighters and seduced us with their damn catchy hooks and fun lyrics to sing along with, like "You starfucker-type caviar daydream." See, that was fun, huh? (Arrissia Owen)
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