Good Music / Bad Music

Tag: reggae

The Ott Band – Love Me

by on Nov.21, 2009, under Good Music

ottbandlovemeSo. The OTT Band. I was weary. Much like freesoulJAH, this one, too, underwent an evolving perception with me. The difference is that freesoulJAH is freesoulJAH. He is what he is, and it’s unexpected, but in the end, it really kind of works in some weird way. The OTT Band, on the other hand, has taken a very dire marketing misstep here.

I open up this London band’s CD and holy shit. This album art is terrible. It appears to be the equivalent of those over-the-hill American singer/songwriter guys who play in shit ass cover bands full time while pushing out the occasional disc of basement recordings that might have been good fifteen years ago before their ideas were so outdated. You know, cynical bastards that have nowhere to go but the sports bar? The OTT Band’s CD cover has a group of people, who I presume to be said band, in a cheap, candid, pulled back snapsot. The whole thing is soaked in the color orange, and stamped with fonts that apparently were included in Microsoft Publisher 98. How the fuck was I going to review this? If this band truly is comprised of those sports bar frequenting, cover band playing, old wankers, I can’t point all this out to them. I have sympathy for those guys, after all. Is the destruction of their rock star dreams not enough? Now they’ve got to take a verbal ass kicking from some punk ass snot shit American sitting comfortably behind his computer?

I’m happy to report that no…they do not. Hence it is confirmed that one truly cannot tell a book by it’s cover.

The vocals on the opening track, “Don’t Know,” are the last difficult hurdle to get over, but once you make it past, this is a very rewarding listen. It’s not any kind of style that is considered new. However, it is a style that is so difficult to properly execute, there are only a small handful of bands out there that have ever been able to pull it off…and nowadays no one even tries. I’m talking about the music of the 80’s. But not the 80’s you’re familiar with. Not that kitschy, coked out radio discomfort that you know in such forms as Dead or Alive, Thompson Twins or fucking Madonna. The Ott Band is tapped into something far more creative, pure and interesting. It’s that part of the 80’s that the cool kids were into. The early part that bled with the end of the 70’s and was more focused on an innovative, worldly and artistic sound. Music for music and change…not music for money and drugs. The OTT Band resonates loudly with the sounds of The Specials, The English Beat or Sandinista! era Clash.

Those are all UK bands. Maybe this is just a difference in form between the United Kingdom and America, where I was stuck. Maybe they take for granted this kind of sound over there. I just don’t hear anyone doing it anymore. Fortunately, The OTT Band relishes in it. They touch on that blessed sound that is not quite reggae, not quite rock, a little bit closer to dancehall, and strangely uplifting. There is a good use of what sounds like full choirs of people here. There are watery electronics, very notably applied on “Six Million Miles,” that serves as a testament to the detail put into these songs. The range of what they do with the music is also nicely expansive. On one end we have the head bobbing, ska-before-ska-was-ska, “Sending in the Lions,” mixed with odd modern notions of “getting bling.” It’s a playful antithesis to “Special,” a dubby, introspective gem of night music. Everything in between is a carefully laid landscape of pianos, guitars, horns and whatever else was needed to make these songs complete.

The only other complaint I can voice about this band is their website where they have a section called, “Who the **** are The OTT Band?” To this, guys, I gotta recommend that you just type out the “fuck” word. I mean, it’s 2009. Everyone knows what four asterisks mean and most people really enjoy the word “fuck” anyway.

As for the album cover, just ask me next time. I’ll work you up something more fitting…free of charge.

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freesoulJAH – Light Headed

by on Nov.03, 2009, under Bad Music, Good Music, mp3

light-headed_coverSo I get this email from this dude called freesoulJAH. He’s encouraging me to check out his 2007 release, Light Headed. Now I also put an album out in 2007, myself, and as far as the music reviewing business goes, that shit is dead. However, I can’t really resist mentioning this release for a couple reasons. First of all, you can download the whole thing, which is always a treat, no matter what it is. Second, I’m so conflicted on this release that it earns this strange categorization of being in both “Bad Music” and “Good Music.”

freesoulJAH signed his email to me, “with peace.” He doesn’t seem to be the kind of guy that seeks conflict, and maybe he’s trying to get on my good side in advance. I don’t know, but he doesn’t seem to be the kind of guy that deserves to have his feelings hurt either (unlike Buckcherry or Asher Roth). So though my case about this album could perhaps be more effectively made by presenting the evidence of “good music” before that of “bad music,” I’m going to cover the bad of it first. All in all, it’s because I’d rather freesoulJAH smoked his dope, read this review and came away saying, “Okay..that’s cool…that’s fair.” You know…instead of saying, “Those be some negative vibes, mon!”

I’ve got to poke a little fun at the guy though.

So okay. Bad news first. freesoulJAH initially comes across as a ridiculous stereotype and I cannot, in good conscious, argue otherwise. A visit to his website reveals a dread headed white Rastafarian looking dude. (“What does being white have to do with it, mon? Why you be such a racist? Jah’s love is for everyone!” Right?) His site decor is apparently fashioned in the colors of Ghana or the Congo, most likely. Maybe Bolivia, but I doubt it because Bolivia isn’t a very cool place to most enlightened Rasta homies.

“It takes a lot for me to really like modern reggae music,” I think to myself as I shake my head in a complete lack of faith in freesoulJAH. Then I read the titles to his music. Suddenly, a thought hits me…

“What is this crap?”

Here are but a small sample of song titles that make me sigh, roll my eyes and swear off weed forever so that I don’t ever act like this: “Peace to the People,” “Can You Feel My Love,” “Love Your Brother,” “Singing to the Birds” and the list goes on and on. (Those are just my favorite…to make fun of.) Alright! Peace and happiness and love and blah blah blah. That’s all fine and well, but can’t it be a little more poetic? A little more obscured? Of course love your brother. Of course peace to the people. Anyone that gives this album half a chance after looking at the album cover sure as shit isn’t hoping to meditate on Slayer.

What the fuck, freesoulJAH?

Okay. Then I gave this heaping pile of Jamaican wannabe shit a listen and was amazed to learn that it’s not actually a heaping pile of Jamaican wannabe shit! It’s just immensely misrepresented. Hence we move into that which makes this good music.

freesoulJAH is not another fly by night dumbass Rasta wanker and this is not a reggae album. Though everything this guy advertises is contradictory to what he actually does, he deserves some credit for throwing it back to a movement that everyone respects but few people attempt (or attempt well), the beat generation. On closer inspection, there is evidence that freesoulJAH may even be aware that this is his true niche, as he does have a song called “Next Beat Generation” tucked away among those other, more sterile titles.

Granted, his lyrics are still not all that prolific. Some of them are pretty much just the song titles repeated over and over again. Yet, I can forgive this because freesoulJAH is getting high and making shit. It’s minimal. It’s rough. It’s beat poetry…for better or for worse. That I can respect.

You listen to all this shit on the radio and you hear cookie cutter bullshit, formed to spec for the purposes of making more money and feeding more cocaine to superficial music executives. Focus groups and demographics testing can tell you that the beat in the new Miley Cyrus “song” should include a different kind of snare because children under the age of 14 will like it better. Then some guy gets in there with a computer and makes the change to make Billy Ray’s daughter a corporately constructed, achy breaky star.

Fuck all that.

I imagine freesoulJAH’s process to be something like this: He plugs his guitar and a mic in his 8 track, hits his bong a few times, then lays it the fuck down. It’s great to him because he’s stoned and his overdubs make it better. Then other people also like it because they are stoned, which is a much better reason than liking something because everyone else likes it, or because the sound is like everything else you listen to.

As for me, I’m not stoned, and I can still hang with this. Not repeatedly, mind you. Not at a party. Not in my car with a girl. But late at night, as the evening winds down and the politics of the day resonate around, it’s listenable because it’s real.

You’re a quirky dude, freesoulJAH (and “State of the Union 2007” is, like, uhhh yeah…) but as far as I’m concerned, you’re still in the cool club. Sorry for the negative vibes, mon.

Download freesoulJAH’s beatnik bullshit here. (Then burn it to a CD-R, write “New Unreleased Hannah Montana Album” on the front with a Sharpie, and give it to the nearest 12 year old girl.)

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