Published on May 15th, 2017 | by Dave Scaddan0
The Feedback Society’s Week in Music
Some albums we’ve been discussing over drinks this week at The Feedback Society, from Robyn Hitchcock and Jamiroquai to Willie Nelson, Clipping, and Shabazz Palaces.
Robyn Hitchcock – Robyn Hitchcock
Now living in Nashville, Hitchcock swears to his fans in a recent interview that he “hasn’t gone twangy.” I hate to refute the words of one of my all-time favourites, but I hear a little twang here, for sure. The songwriting is still the same off-the-cuff, slightly cracked English style that I’ve been loving since the Globe of Frogs tape I had in ’88. Robyn Hitchcock is quite simply one of the most original and unaffected songwriters we have recording music today, and seeing him still putting out quality new material on a regular basis is one of my favourite things about the modern music industry.
This is his twenty-first studio album (not counting live efforts or Soft Boys albums) and it belongs in the upper half of that legacy. Between a few pedal steel parts and Nashville studio touches, Robyn is still Robyn. If there’s any changing theme in the autumn years for Hitchcock, it might be that he tends to be a little more serious or wistful, but fans of his legacy won’t be let down here.
Jamiroquai – Automaton
The newest from this British funk outfit is hard to stay away from — it’s got the same danceable groove that their classics like ‘Canned Heat’ and ‘Virtual Insanity’ have. Jay Kay and crew have been at this for nearly 25 years now, keeping the best elements of disco and boogie alive and even, on this new record, treading into some downright Daft Punkish territory. The title track/lead-off single is a banger. If you remember Jamiroquai fondly, this will take you right back. If you don’t remember them at all, either get them on your stream or watch Napoleon Dynamite again.
clipping. – Splendor and Misery
This record has actually been out since September of last year, but its recent nomination for a Hugo Award (given to works of science fiction) put it back on my radar, and I’m glad it did. A rap record being nominated for a Hugo might seem odd, but as Daveed Diggs from clipping. points out, Sun Ra, Parliament Funkadelic, and Afrika Bambaata have all crossed black Funk with outer space themes before, so it’s not an entirely new thing.
Splendor and Misery tells (through song) the story of an outer space drone who survives a programmed execution of his entire earthling crew and tries to pilot his intergalactic slave ship to greener pastures. It’s a story of rebellion, redemption, panic, and hope. Diggs’ skills with both the pen and the mic abound.
Willie Nelson – God’s Problem Child
I haven’t liked a Willie album as much as this one since maybe Teatro, and that was 1998. God’s Problem Child confirms that Willie Nelson’s vocals truly are ageless, and they haven’t lost lustre one bit. Willie’s voice has remained stronger than any other aging country legend that comes to mind, except maybe for Dolly Parton.
The track ‘Your Memory has a Mind of its Own’ belongs on a list of Willie’s best. His guitar-as-extension-of-hands style of playing, with its halting, cascading touches, is like an old, soft blanket you haven’t been wrapped in for a while.
A couple of songs here even seem to be telling us to chill about Donald Trump. Willie paints the current political landscape like a right-edged phase of an inevitable pendulum swing. Hearing his wise-but-humble voice that’s been there through Kennedy to Nixon, Carter to Reagan, Clinton to Bush and Obama to Trump makes it easier to take the long view and point to some great circle in the grand design.
Shabazz Palaces – Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star
I will always keep an ear to the ground for anything Ishmael Butler is involved with and I’m thrilled that his Seattle group Shabazz Palaces is churning out regular product, but I feel like this new record isn’t getting off the couch enough. Still, I think that anyone tired of the same predictable sounds most current hip hop acts are producing should give this group (and any of their albums) a chance. Shabazz Palaces earn their ‘experimental’ tag, but still remain rooted in a hip hop palette most of the time. Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star rarely gets the bpms up over about 95, it’s a little less lyrically dense than usual, but it still has that slick-as-hell, painfully cool vibe throughout. While I wish this group the best and will always follow their path, maybe I’m just not getting what I want from them on this one, even though what I’m getting is still smarter, chiller, and just more “down” than anything our current so-called hip hop ‘superstars’ could create.