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Taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

The-Dream — Love vs. Money

Straight out of the Department of Unnecessary Punctuation comes Love vs. Money, the sophomore effort from awardwinning producer and songwriter Terius Nash. Better known as the-Dream (www.myspace.com/thedreamteam), the ATL-via-Rockingham had his handprint on Mary J. Blige’s Grammy-winning Growing Pains and co-wrote the Rhianna hit “Umbrella.” With so many of his projects going on to great success and widespread play, it serves to explain exactly why much of his own solo work sounds so rehashed. Granted there are some spectacular beats to be found on Love vs. Money, but the songwriting — Nash’s bread and butter — often represents to worst of the misogynistic and materialistic hip-hop cliché. Nash’s claims of being reared on the music of Al Green and Sam Cooke ring hollow on songs like “Take You Home 2 Mama.” Instead of engendering himself through sweetly sentimental vocals, he merely objectifies the person of his desires with crude bodily commentary. Even his direct references to sex are imbued with vulgar images of physical violence against women. On “Put It Down,” he asserts that you should “call him Ali/the way he knocked your ass down,” serving only to aggravate the abusive stereotypes that will surely continue to plague hip-hop musicians since the Chris Brown/Rhianna incident. The album’s gutter point comes with a token appearance on Lil Jon on “Let Me See the Booty,” where you can once again count his verbal contributions on four fingers. Luckily, that leaves one left to properly express the contempt that the song elicits. It doesn’t mitigate the degrading tone of the album, but the production value of Love vs. Money itself is top-notch thanks to Nash’s silent partner Tricky Stewart leading me to believe that I’ll just wait for the instrumentals to come out. 

Les Claypool — Of Fungi and Foe

Almost no one familiar with his work will dispute the fact that Les Claypool’s (www.lesclaypool.com) music is far better in person than on an album. Aside from much of his work fronting funk-metal band Primus, even the occasional live disk more faithfully captures the peculiarities and eccentricities of the Bay Area bass slapper with the incongruent hillbilly twang. So is there a bona fide reason to even consider his most recent work Of Fungi and Foe? Not for most, but the same could be said all of the albums released under his own name. This one, however, takes the niche experimentalism to a whole new level of inaccessibility. The unsyncopated and downright bizarre collection of material is comprised primarily of work commissioned for a video game Mushroom Men and a movie entitled Pig Hunt, which does well to explain the additional weirdness. The first half of the album ranges from Future Shock-era Herbie Hancock remixed by John Cage like “Mushroom Men,” to the Tom Waits on a really bad day banging-and-grunting of “Booneville Stomp.” It’s not until Eugene Hutz of gypsy-rockers Gogol Bordello makes an appearance on “Bite Out of Life” that you have anything remotely resembling commercial appeal, and that’s at its most extreme. Hutz is just one of a few guest appearances on an album that’s mostly performed by Claypool himself, with drummer Mike Dillon being another. Even percussionist Lapland Miclovik is a pseudonym that Claypool used in his recent movie Electric Apricot. If you’re feeling very adventurous, or willing to step far outside of your comfort zone, give Of Fungi and Foe a whirl. Otherwise, you might be better served to wait and hear the material’s live treatment.

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