|by Blair Fraipont|
|Artist: Mariah Carey Album: The Emancipation of Mimi Label: Island Records
Since 1990 Mariah Carey has pumped unearthly high squealing, hushed and soaring ballads and uplifting yet unadventurous songs into the hearts and memories of many on earth. Never owning a single product of hers, I felt this was as good a time as ever to introduce myself to Ms. Carey.
Commencing with The Emancipation of Mimi turned out to be the perfect place to start. Unaware of whether I would spend the next sixty minutes deluged with banal ballads that begin in whispers and finish ultimately in blaring soul-belting or bleak dance beats I was not looking forward to hearing this. However, I discovered that listening to her was not as harmful as I had imagined.
Aside from sounding like Beyonce's doppleganger (the cover also has a mysterious Beyonce-esqueness to it) on several tracks the album holds itself quite well. There is an upbeat quality to the songs and themes that may have been absent from recent hits. The idea that she has emancipated her true self is rather silly and pointless when all you want to do is shake your derriere to the wanton groove of "Say Somethin'' accompanied by the STD slithers of Snoop Dogg or the cool 80s retro funk of "Get Your Number." Other noted moments of brilliance include the wonderful and utterly desperate soul of "Stay The Night" and the warm horn accompaniment which strengthen songs like "Mine Again" and "I Wish You Knew."
The only faults with the album are that Carey's attempts to make a great record come across as possibly trying too hard. Undoubtably, she has a remarkable voice. Yet, the album is littered with too many of those unearthly squeals: the sound of an obnoxious teen ice skater being thrown into a large meat grinding centrifuge. Also, by using the latest hit-makers and hottest producers may lead some to say she is searching for relevance. Instead, she should focus on showcasing her talent in new ways without appearing desperate.
Conclusively, this record, which recognizes the freedom of Ms. Carey's inner-self or secret personality, is not as revealing or interesting as one would hope. She likes to dance, has trouble with men, and pines for true love and individuality of soul. Don't we all ask for the same? Yet, this record works great playing from start to finish. The ballads are brief and rarely drag; the dance tracks are placed intermittently between the ballads, (which means the album never lulls) and the paint-by-numbers lyrics are luckily overshadowed by the high energy performances of one very talented singer.
Artist & Album: LCD Soundsystem Label: Capitol/DFA Records
James Murphy is the beleaguered heart and soul of LCD Soundsystem. Having paid his dues in punk bands in the 90s and later as a studio engineer, he formed LCD Soundsystem as a culmination of his years as a music fan and participant. Similar to other rock/funk/dance bands such as !!! or Out Hud,
LCD Soundsystem takes the approach of cult bands that have laid down the tracks years prior of having music that urged one to move, but possibly also think.
Bands such as CAN, The Fall, and Liquid Liquid, all make appearances here as in tribute paid by James Murphy. These inspired songs are not mere revisits as they are extensions of what was created years prior. Such obvious combination of devotion and fresh creativity comes few and far between today and that is what shines on this eponymous disc. The lead track, "daft punk is playing at my house" is a relentless crunchy guitar topped with falsetto choruses, hand claps and cowbell all wrapped together by the attitude of Murphy's snot-nosed joy.
"Never as tired as when I'm waking up" sounds as if it is ripped off the pages of late-period Beatlesand this is a good thing.
Luckily there is a second disc which is a compilation of the group's previous singles and 12" releases. There is nothing in the realm of filler here as each track (as with the album on disc one) shines with its own personality. The highlight on this disc is "Yr city's a sucker" which builds off of a bouncy bass groove including a flurry of keyboards that recalls Speaking in Tongues-era Talking Heads.
LCD Soundsystem and The Emancipation of Mimi make for awkward lovers but are both highly recommended summer music.
Blair Fraipont is a regular contributor to Letters from CAMP Rehoboth. He may be reached by e-mail in care of firstname.lastname@example.org.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 4 May 6, 2005