Friday, September 12, 2008

Buck 65 Vinyl Week, Day 4.2 - Wicked and Weird

First of all, if you haven't already, go read this blog post about Buck 65's Anticon 12", "The Centaur;" because if I hadn't already written about it last year, it would be by all rights the Day 4 entry in Buck 65 Vinyl Week, and this post would be Day 5. But I think it'd be a bit of a cop out just to repost it and call that an entry. So, yeah. Just go read that for Day 4 and now here's Day 4.2:

"Wicked and Weird" was the lead single off of Buck's probably best-to-date album (certainly the most consistent), Talkin' Honky Blues, both of which came out in 2003 on Warner Brothers Records. That's a bit of a devisive opinion, because previously Buck had always changed styles (and even voices) from song-to-song on his albums, and on this one he picked one and stuck with it. So many people missed the variety, or perhaps were just stuck on a particular delivery he didn't choose to utilize this go 'round; so he caught a lot of flack. The fact that he made this change on a record that was his first on a major label (WB rereleasing and sometimes altering his back catalog doesn't count), really upped the scrutiny. But while pretty much all of his albums have reached moments just as good before, this is where his song-writing really held up for the entire album.

And this was the light but clever, really catchy lead in to that album. It's fast paced, has a really great hook (you don't get that often from rappers who started in the 90's, after all), using his clever rhyme style to set up the atmosphere of the album, and still hold up as an absorbing, self-contained song, as opposed to a freestyle with some stand-out lines. His gravely voice, a twangy guitar loop and a thumping bassline mesh perfectly to make an anthem about his boldy eccentricity and passion for nostalgic Americana (yeah, I know he's from Canada) on the road:

"Hole in the muffler, ghost on the shoulder,
Cough drops, loose change in the beverage holder.
To roll down the window you gotta use a wrench.
...I'm thinking about brushing up on my French.
Right there in the glove box, if you should look,
You'll find forty parking tickets,
And a copy of the Good Book.
Don't bother looking... you'll never find me;
I'm starting from scratch and leaving trouble behind me."

There's a hot breakdown where it sounds like it's he's going to let the guitar player go solo, but it quickly becomes a showcase for his turntable skills, cutting up carious samples as the background music fades and transforms.

This is followed up by the "Jacknife Lee" remix of the same song. It's not as good as the original; but it's good, and different enough to make for a decent alterantive. I have no idea who this Jacknife Lee is, but according to wikipedia, "Garret 'Jacknife' Lee is a Grammy Award winning music producer and remixer. He has worked with a variety of artists, including U2, R.E.M., Snow Patrol, Bloc Party, The Hives, Weezer, Vega4 and Editors." So I guess he's a big deal in some circles; but that also kinda lets you know what to expect... this isn't no DITC remix. The basic pace and rhythm of the original is kept, but most of the samples are stripped away and replaced by some hard, grungy electric guitars. I'm no rocker, but I'd be pretty impressed with this if I wasn't already familiar with the original. But as it is, it's just a decent remix.

The b-side, a non-album track called "What's Wrong With That," also utilizes some heavy guitars; but we're out of Jacknife Lee grunge rock metal (or whatever) territory and back into Buck 65's production style. The guitars mostly stick to a simple loop supporting a fast, upbeat track... it actually reminds me of some Def Jam-era Beastie Boys, but more polished (it's got some 80's style percussion in there, too; which helps the comparison). The lyrics, too - though technically still following the 12"'s theme of defiantly bold individuality - are a little more freestyle and all-over-the-place like the Beasties would be:

"I hate to hear that whistle blow,
Gettin' dirty, make a racket.
Got some sun, torpedo neck,
Backpack and my snakeskin jacket.
My woman's good; she keeps me straight,
Gives me Hell and loves the Lord.
I got my wheels, a place to rest...
I got everything and I still want more.
What's wrong with that?"

It's kind of a perfect b-side. It doesn't quite mesh with the album, so it doesn't belong there. It echoes the themes of the A-side. And t's not so well written that it steals the show from the main track (B-side doesn't win again this time); but it's good enough that you'll want to buy the single to get it even if you have the album.

So, all in all this is a definite for the crates. You might also want to track down the split 2004 12" from Ninja Tune (split because there's a song by some group named Airborn Audio on the other side), which doesn't include the remix or "What's Wrong With That," but does have the "Wicked and Weird" instrumental, which Warner left off of this 12", probably for space. See, even though this is a 12", it plays at 45rpm; possibly just to stick with the eccentric theme of the single... but that doesn't leave you much room for instrumentals and the like. So you might want that one if you're a completist; but you'll defintiely be wanting this one: another of Buck's great 12"s.


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