Some Songs Considered #012: Typefighter, Laughing Man, Beauty Pill, Slim Thug, and Souls of Mischief
Welcome to Some Songs Considered, a column that recognizes they can’t all be zingers and truly appreciates the ones that are.
Typefighter – The End of Everything
by Bryce Rudow (@brycetrudow)
As you slog on the bloated, unforgiving roads that navigate the journey of the aspiring music journalist, you encounter a lot of firsts; your first interview, your first big discovery, your first time getting published somewhere big, your first good interview. Once you get about a half decade in though, you’ll deal with one of the worst firsts there is: the first time a band you really believed in doesn’t make it.
Because you like to think you have this gift, a sixth sense for knowing which artists are, for lack of a better word, better than the others. And then you begin to find out you’re not the Oracle at DC9; Tiny Victories’ debut LP doesn’t capture the attention of the blogosphere and Mesita continues to toil beautifully in obscurity. And now, Typefighter, one of the few DC bands you don’t have to give the “hometown bump” to really enjoy, is playing their final show tomorrow night.
And damn it really sucks to hear that.
Ever since spring of 2014 when Ryan McLaughlin and his band of merry melody makers (with especially big shouts outs to bassist John Scoops) released The End of Everything, their Get Up Kids-esque garage pop debut LP, I have pimped it every chance I could. Constant plugs in music columns, the #13 spot on my ‘Top 14 songs of 2014’ list. And it wasn’t that I was abusing my power as a journalist, I really loved the thing. It’s intelligent, deep lyrics over mature pop punk hooks. Their earlier EPs were pretty darn solid too. However, as they say in their song “1991”, “Well I’ve been wrong before about things, but now it’s irrelevant.”
I could talk more about why it’s the track order’s fault – you should really start the album at track 7, “The End of Everything”, and loop back from there (as I have done with this Spotify embed) – or why a lack of similar sounding bands in DC made it hard for them to gain a good foothold. But the truth is, all I’m going to do is get like 6 beers in me on the roof of Rock and Roll Hotel Saturday night and then I’m going to watch one of my favorite local bands play their last show. And I’m going to have a blast.
Laughing Man & Beauty Pill
by Lindsay Hogan (@LindsayHogan88)
In Washington DC’s music scene, a lack of cut-throat ambition allows for, in my opinion, more freedom of experimentation and (by proxy of living in the nation’s capitol) an unavoidable engagement with political and cultural dialogue.
The release of two understated, but visually stunning music video’s in the last month brought DC bands Laughing Man and Beauty Pill to the front of my mind.
“Bodycop” by Laughing Man is a moody song paired with a beautifully haunting video. Unconventionally framed, thoughtfully drawn-out shots pan to the body of a deceased young black man. The shot reveals that the body is positioned at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial. Succeeding shots show the same man sprawled in different locations around Washington DC. The effect is hypnotic and disturbing, pairing with the race-conscious, political focus of the band’s 2014 album, Be Black Baby.
Whether intentionally or not, the style of each shot reminded me of the opening sequence to House of Cards, creating an instant contrast between the glamourized depiction of the city and the grim, racial injustice lying just beyond the grounds of the White House. But the video is steadily paced and simple enough to allow the song to speak for itself. “Bodycop” is restrained and distant at first, showing off Laughing Man’s atmospheric blending of blues rock, lite psychedelic rock and a little jazz. The song takes a bold shift about two-thirds in and a unleashes an up-tempo interlude, mirrored in the video by footage of the man shadowboxing on the backside of the Lincoln Memorial. Its an ominous commentary on the worth of black lives and police brutality, revealing the delusion of American ideology represented by the monuments.
Beauty Pill released a video for their song “Steven & Tiwonge” that, unlike Laughing Man, is not overly political, but provides a dramatic setting for a song focused on the humanity of the individuals suffering discrimination and injustice. “Steven & Tiwonge” is based on the actual events of a couple in Malawi who were jailed for being gay. The song conveys the fear and anxiety of living under threat of oppression: “I love you, let go. The State says let go.” The song writing of Beauty Pill’s Chad Clark is simple and brilliant, comparing the subtly dueling perspectives of two lovers faced with persecution. I recommend listening to this song a few times in succession to pick up all clever details.
The video, like “Bodycop”, is slow and methodical, not overpowering the central dialogue of the song. Chad Clark slides, almost disembodied down a carpeted hallway, echoing the attempted escape of Steven and Tiwonge. Abstract and hypnotic images layer over the scene, creating the sensation that the walls around the viewer are collapsing. Its mesmerizing but effectively conveys the eerie anxiety and anguish of the song. Its not packed with as much political commentary and evocative imagery as the “Bodycop” video, but it’s a punch in the heart nonetheless.
Slim Thug – Already Platinum
by Julian Kimble (@JRK316)
When Southern hip-hop claimed the recognition and popularity that long escaped its grasp in the early 2000s, a spotlight shone down upon Houston. The Geto Boys and Scarface helped the city earn a great deal of respect during the ‘90s; “25 Lighters” is a cookout classic, and all of the sex had to chopped and screwed R&B mixtapes can be credited to the Houston hip-hop scene. Shit, without “June 27,” there’d be no “November 18th.” This impressive resume paved the way for artists like Lil’ Flip, Mike Jones, Chamillionaire, Paul Wall and Slim Thug.
Ten years ago this Sunday, Slim Thug released his debut album, Already Platinum. In my opinion, the project has flown under the radar; its quality never properly acknowledged. The boldly-titled album was released on the Neptunes’ Star Trak label, and the duo produced half of the album. And as much as I love the title track, both versions of “I Ain’t Heard of That” and the heavy “This Is My Life,” a personal favorite — “Do It For You” — never made the album’s final cut.
Slim Thug benefitted from three things in 2005: recognition from delivering the opening verse on Mike Jones’ “Still Tippin’,” his trademark husky growl, and production from the Neptunes at their peak. As simple as “Do It For You” is, it’s a vintage Neptunes layering of sounds: the guitar in the background, the persistent tambourine, and the busy percussion. At the bridge, this gives way to a drum fill and the hallmark extraterrestrial synths which have come to define their work.
Before each dazzling bridge, Slim Thug announces who he pushes himself to the limit for: his supporters, the common man, and, of course, Houston. “Do It For You” is his tribute to everything that helped Stayve Thomas become Slim Thug, and listening to it now makes you wish it had been included on the album, and that Slim Thug had done more work with the Neptunes in the years after Already Platinum.
Regardless, I take comfort in knowing others share my appreciation for this song: it’s one of many gems that Scott Vener wedged into an episode of Entourage. In honor of Already Platinum’s 10th anniversary, give the album a spin this weekend, but also revisit Entourage’s second season to find that episode. Meanwhile, I’m going to dig through a book of old CD’s in search of a Hidden Neptunes Jams mix I made back in the day which also includes it.
Souls of Mischief – “93 Til’ Infinity”
by Joe Corbett (@joecorbett)
Growing up as a middle class white kid in the 90’s while living in the suburbs of New York was chock full of privilege, but possibly the greatest privilege of all was the endless hip-hop music inundating the burbs on a weekly basis.
I was 18 the first time I heard 93 Til’ Infinity by Souls Of Mischief, so imagine my surprise when I found out this beat had existed for more than half a decade. The track eventually made its way into the trunk-mounted CD changer of my 1981 BMW and became part of my regular rotation when I’d drive around the picturesque village of Ridgewood during free period smoking Parliament Lights with literally not a care in the world.
When you hear the debate about hip-hop then vs. now, thinking back to the late 90’s and early 2000’s and my trunk mounted CD player, for me, the debate is utterly laughable. 93 ’til infinity it sure is.
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