A Brassy Blonde

By the

March 22, 2001

Ever since Blondie’s “Rapture” dropped as one of the first recorded rap tracks, rock bands have had valid reason to lay claim to hip-hop. The pollinization has run both ways; Run-DMC gladly returned the favor, unfortunately culminating in their poor selection of Aerosmith as the embodiment of all that rap could learn from rock. This omen may have gone generally unnoticed at the time, but since then contenders too numerous to name have stepped up to the plate and given all of us plenty of reasons to end our own lives or at least turn off the radio and wonder if rock had been exported to cut labor costs.

But we need not dwell on all this; rather, as the above tragedies will most likely never end, feel free to relegate them to the back of your memory. Like cockroaches, they will thrive nevertheless. So ignore as you see fit. You will endanger no one.

Having suspended your bitterness, listen to a new record on Wiiija from Brassy. Four people, apparently including Jon Spencer of Blues Explosion’s sister, have produced a record called Got It Made. Got It Made is quirky; Got It Made can be annoying. But it’s annoying in an endearing way, annoying like no other.

After the goofy intro scratches, and the first beat drops and the vaguely surf-rock chords of “No Competition” kick in. The format is familiar in many ways; it’s a boast song about how they “can’t be beat.” At their own game, this is certainly true. No one else could sound this much like Blondie with really new synths and cooler drum lines. Brassy represents an updated version of the sound, though, not just a remake. A project like this takes talent; few bands can even do a good job of sounding like other bands of which they happen to be contemporaries. To take a musical tangent from twenty years previous and update it so smoothly requires imagination. The much heavier burden of producing a truly original project now falls to their second album.

But back to the existing product that is Got It Made. From “No Competition,” the record jumps all over the tempo and format map. Thrash guitar lines rock “Nervous,” and some cuts are just straight hip-hop. One of the coolest parts about the record is the way the songwriting breaks the tempo format. Disposable producers everywhere have dragged computer-based music into a strict tempo-driven rhythm system, leading to some relatively worthless records, especially in a hip-hop/downtempo format. So be grateful for Brassy, which doesn’t give a damn; most tracks on Got It Made are driven by rhythms based in the songwriting. Involving computers in music may have spawned some beautiful records, but now every othr guy with a PC seems to have decided that he can make a good beat. Real songwriting takes talent, which someone in Brassy certainly has.

Lyrical content may not be the band’s forte, but then again I don’t think that was the idea. Many MCs devote most of their time to convincing you that their lyrics are center stage; ironically enough, boasts of that sort have evolved to become critical parts of hip-hop as a compositional whole. There’s a reason that “Sucker MC’s” was much more than just a poem. Brassy, however, is in a completely different league. I prefer to imagine that my ears just aren’t primed for their off-kilter ramblings. The lyrics may not be pretty, and you may sound like a dork if you sing them to yourself in the elevator, but they fit well with the rest of the insanity.

Truly off-kilter hip-hop is forging new ground. MC Paul Barman’s EP last year broke it open from a lyrical perspective; for those not amused by lyrics such as: “I’ll backlash your booty like Susan Faludi,” Brassy have brought the beats to make it all better.

Brassy open for Idlewild at the 9:30 on Thursday.

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