Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Groove Theories: Open Mike Eagle / Dark Comedy

Open Mike Eagle
Mello Music Group
by Sean Morris

“I heard Kendrick Lamar’s Batman and Miley Cyrus likes 
to treat a microphone stand as if it’s a large black man.”

This pitch-perfect couplet from Hellfyre Club’s “Elephant in the Pressroom” sets off Open Mike Eagle’s scathing monotone, delivering one of the best rap verses of 2013. But it’s another track from Hellfyre’s Dorner vs. Tookie album, “Qualifiers,” that serves as a proper introduction to Mike Eagle’s incisive wit and stunning delivery. The beat consists of little more than four guitar licks over smooth boom and rattle, Eagle’s melodic flow doing the heavy lifting. Sing-rhyming “GoldenEye” with “Kobe Tai” is just one of this humble-brag anthem’s many delights. 

The fact that Dorner vs. Tookie and Dark Comedy, Eagle’s latest solo release, can count the same song as one of its highlights is both help and hindrance. “Dark Comedy Morning Show” sets the overall tone, doleful strumming and industrial atmospherics gradually close in on solemn proclamations like “I swear we’re living John Lennon songs.” It’s emo-hop’s answer to Electro-Shock Blues’ “life is funny, but not ha ha funny” line. But there are plenty of traditional guffaw-inducing punchlines to discover on Dark Comedy:

“they make the flyest orthotics
and make decent movies out of Alan Moore comics”

“never march through Korea Town in a Madea gown”

“when I pass gas it sounds like a fax machine”

Deftly heckling everything from spoken word to Honda Civics, the lyrics are worth pouring over like a good book you can’t stop quoting. Pop culture references are gleefully obscure and random (Michel’le, Jonathan Lipnicki). Comedian Hannibal Buress hurls insults on “Doug Stamper,” and erudite loon MC Paul Barman materializes out of nowhere at the end of “Thirsty Ego Raps.” Though a feature from Hellfyre’s Busdriver or Nocando would have been welcome, Eagle’s mindful voice is consistently captivating.

There are almost as many producers on Dark Comedy as there are songs, and though cohesive, the monochromatic beat progression detracts a bit from the experience. Most of the production places too much focus on the first word of the album title and not enough on the second. G-funk throwback “Golden Age Raps” and buzzing, insistent “Doug Stamper” are the only offerings that would elicit wry grins if separated from the clever MCing. The ambient turn on “Very Much Money” is a wonderful fit for Eagle’s lamentations, but this pensive template is repeated one too many times by album’s end.

“A History of Modern Dance” features a chilling screech and clatter straight out of Cannibal Ox’s Cold Vein, providing a much-needed jolt to the proceedings. But even when the album’s sound lapses back into Adult Swim bump leftovers, we get verbal gems like “the ego is the dirtiest of private parts.”  That “we’re the tightest kinda” hook on “Qualifiers” accidentally becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Studying Open Mike Eagle’s words are more of a joy when their accompaniment doesn’t feel like a chore. Between Dark Comedy, Nocando’s grimy Jimmy the Burnout, and Busdriver’s upcoming Perfect Hair, Los Angeles' Hellfyre Club’s “turn your brain on” ethos is significantly brightening hip hop’s future.

Listen/purchase Dark Comedy on:

Zestyverse's resident Music Geek Sean Morris is an SF Bay Area native with a photographic memory and encyclopedic knowledge of popular culture. He is a graduate of UCLA's School of Theater, Film, and Television, a former Los Angeles Slam Team member, part of the collective Art 4 A Democratic Society, and a music blogger for The Owl Mag. Find him on TwitterSoundCloud, and YouTube.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Quote of the Week - Lewis

"No matter how hard I try
to be just one of the guys
There's a little something inside
that won't let me!
No matter how hard I try
to have an open mind
There's a little voice inside
that prevents me!"
~ Jenny Lewis

I've been loving on this cut a while now, and resisting posting quotes from it, but the video just put it over the tipping point.

Everybody needs a rainbow suit. Especially on Mondays!

Basically, I just want to say YES to everything she says in this song. This is how it feels to be a girl.

Thanks, Jenny Lewis!

Just One of the Guys 
Jenny Lewis

All our friends, they're gettin' on,
But the girls are still staying young
If I get caught being rude in a conversation
With the child bride on her summer vacation

No matter how hard I try to be just one of the guys
There's a little something inside that won't let me!
No matter how hard I try to have an open mind
There's a little voice inside that prevents me!

Ooh, how I live it got me here
Locked in this bathroom FULL OF TEARS
And I have begged for you & I have borrowed,
but I've been the only sister to MY OWN SORROW!

No matter how hard I try to be just one of the guys
There's a little something inside that won't let me!
No matter how hard I try to have an open mind
There's a little clock inside that keeps tickin' !

There's only one difference between you & me:
When I look at myself all I can see,
I'm just another lady without a BABY

No matter how hard I try to be just one of the guys
There's a little something inside that won't let me!
No matter how hard I try to have an open mind
There's a little cop inside that prevents me!

I'm not gonna break for you!
I'm not gonna pray for you!
I'm not gonna pay for you!
That's not what ladies do!

Oh when you break
When you break
Oh when you break
Oh when you break

Monday, 14 July 2014

This Week's Quote - Silence

Something beyond words is called for. Something underneath them. 

The way my favourite five year-old sings the subtext of her mind when she knows it's not okay to say these things out loud. She sings them to herself in her quiet voice, so that maybe someone will hear what she wants or fears.

I have zero interest in any definition of football. I've tried. The World Cup frenzy bypasses me.

Yesterday's fever-pitch only made me want to sing in my quiet voice:

What about the Real-World Cup?

What about Israel v. Palestine?

Syria v. Syria?

What about the results of the group with Egypt, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Our Girls, Iraq?

The world is full. All the time. With everything. It is very much about where you place focus. No one should be denied the opportunities that exist to focus on joy, or laughter. 

But the contrast between  faux-gladiator battle that is the World Cup and the battles going on in the real world was too glaring to dismiss. There is something blessedly simple in a sports match-up we can never achieve in actual situations of conflict. That is probably part of their appeal: resolution by rules.

Where are the rules for these conflicts, the maps for our new ways of living, the street signs for compassionate activism?

It's all a bit daunting.

All I've got, for all of this, is meditation, silence, a mantra.

May we all carry peace in our hearts

#np Lambchop - Flick - Is a Woman

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Quote of the Week - Christie

"Don't delay deliciousness." 
~ Celeste Christie

It was dinner and there was okra and papadoms and all kinds of good things, and Celeste said that and I  knew it had to be this week's quote.

This is wise counsel, from a rad cool and extremely crafty person - like Etsy crafty, not like sly. A4DS, an organization co-founded by Celeste, has been featured on the Zestyverse for its pracitivist work.

As you start your week, remember not to delay deliciousness!

Speaking of deliciousness, Zesty has a new Music Editor! Sean Morris will be posting recommendations every month - check out the contributor's page to learn more about him. If you have a new album or EP you'd like us to check out, please drop an email to us.

We also have a new series -- Dear Able People and our first guest post by new contributor Jerry Garcia!

It's summer, but we are keeping it Zesty!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Dear Able People: Wearing the Inside Out by Jerry Garcia

Dear Able People:
Wearing the Inside Out
by Jerry Garcia

The alarm was all afire with notification. No time to stretch and lounge in bed. No time to observe morning’s light passage through blinds or to hear the call of frisky birds. There was just enough time to limp into the kitchen and start the coffee before turning on water for a prolonged hot shower. All the while, nerves flared like hot prongs in an alloy plant. Too many days of waking this way made me weary.

Avascular necrosis of the hip plagued me, destroying mood and motion. A degeneration of the joint, hardly understood, caused the friction of bone grinding on bone. At night, whisky and pot hardly masked the pain, though they did induce a nice oblivion, alone, stoned in front of the television set, I could take my rest. Nor were the NSAIDs effective at that progression of the condition; Advil, Naprosyn, Aspirin were lackluster performers. Cocaine worked best, but that eventually enslaved me into a hapless, moneyless man with bad teeth. So the long hot shower soothed me and prepared me for the day of physical and social encumbrances.

After the shower I managed to dress appropriately for the day and drive myself to work. How to dress became overbearing. I feared not to wear coat and tie, because that was what my family thought proper work attire to be. The pressure remained to be traditional, but that was a conformity which was on the other shoe. Formal dress was not the fashion of my industry, unless I aspired to be a deal-maker. I did not. I considered myself a craftsman though I didn’t use hammer and saw. As a film editor I brought images together, matching and contrasting, pacing and defining significance.

There was a “hip” factor to contend with; the irony should be clear that while my disease centered in my arthritic joints, my mind also strove for that elusive social distinction to rise above the pack. Limping and contorting were not the distinction that qualified me. I would listen to music and wear clothes from the latest fashion rack to join the current crowd of coolness, but felt that was all negated with my limp and awkward stance. It was just as well that I chose not to deal with the tie and the clasp, lapels and creased slacks, because it was difficult not to be self-conscious while walking around the editing room with a wide-gate limp. Fortunately, perhaps, I had earned a reputation for my work ethic, and acquired valuable skill-sets prior to my hips starting to degrade.

I had a respectable job working with elite advertisers and filmmakers. I worked in a fast world where people tripped over one another to score for their team. Being sidelined by the rush of a purposeful coworker or laughed at in the grimace of my reaction was one and the same. Every man would make his own observations, whether or not he followed the groupthink of the day. People stared, some asked, some confided. I did not wish to make anyone live my pain, but the manner in which someone reacted was as important to me as how he talked. And there lay the conundrum: was I belittled or just not as good?

My bone disease had started during my apprentice years, when I was eager to learn the trade. Coming on as a weakness and a dull throb, often after bicycle riding or hiking, it later developed into throbbing and sharpness in both hips. But I never lost a day of work due to the pain; I managed to power through. It could be quite debilitating for some, but for me it was important that I stayed on the path to success. Film projects were hurried with strict deadlines, it was not possible to take time off, as long as I could hobble through the day. Succumbing to the pain would completely destroy the future to which I aspired. The fear of being replaced or forgotten loomed.

I don’t think that makes me better than those who deal with their pain differently. But it makes me an example of a person who is dedicated to career over his own body. Perhaps that is not fair to myself. It also makes me a mess to live with. Depending on which pain treatment I use when I get home, moods swing and reactions flare. That makes it unfair to others.

So I learned to carry film cans three at a time because I was no longer capable of hoisting 60 pounds across a room. As I labored at the craft I love, I listened to others complain about the wheelchair-bound beggar on the street and lovingly joke about a colleague who hobbles on crutches because he broke his leg skiing. I understand that there is a difference as I watch and listen as the disabled are displaced and ignored. I frown at the pain and moreso the evidence of ableism and wonder what has been said behind my back.

Jerry Garcia is a poet, photographer and filmmaker from Los Angeles, California who earns his living as a producer of television commercials and motion picture previews. Jerry has been a co-director of the Valley Contemporary Poets and served as a member of Beyond Baroque’s Board of Trustees. His poetry and photography have been seen in poetic diversity, Chaparral, The Chiron Review, Askew, Palabra Magazine, The November 3rd Club Rick Lupert’s The Night Goes On All Night, KCET’s Departures: Poetry L.A. Style and his chapbook Hitchhiking with the Guilty.

Editor's Note: This is the first guest post in a series on disability, ableism, creativity and functionality. If you would like to share your thoughts, please comment below. If you would like to be a guest blogger, please feel free to get in touch. We welcome anonymous guest posts on this subject, as we are aware of the pressures of discussing these subjects in a public forum.