JAMES MURPHY & PAT MAHONEY
Back in March, Sasha Frere-Jones wrote in the New Yorker that LCD Soundsystem's Sound of Silver took its cues from, among other things, "lots of obscure disco records you need know nothing about." I'm certain I'm wrong about this, but I'd love to believe this DJ set by LCD's leader James Murphy and drummer Pat Mahoney was put together specifically to refute that statement—15 of FabricLive 36's cuts are precisely those disco obscurities (from 1978 to 1983), abetted by nine latter-day tracks that pay tribute to the same basic sound. As mixed by Murphy and Mahoney, the whole thing coheres into an album that matches—maybe tops—Sound of Silver itself.
Not everything on here is obscure, at least not to disco heads, but even the better-known stuff is configured into new surprises. Larry Levan's 10-minute remix of Instant Funk's "I've Got My Mind Made Up" is reduced to two-and-a-half minutes of breakdown, nicely subverting one of clubland's most instantly recognizable records to bring in the hook of Chic's lesser-known "I Feel Your Love Comin' On." Murphy and Mahoney reach DJ nirvana with their jump cut from Baby Oliver's insinuating "Primetime (Uptown Express)" into Donald Byrd's feather-light classic "Love Has Come Around"—it's like emerging from a midnight subway into blinding sunlight. Few collections have contained as many grab-and-hold bass lines, from the lithe-and-athletic riffs of Lenny Williams's "You Got Me Running," GQ's "Lies," and Punkin' Machine's "I Need You Tonight," to the Pac-Man chomp-a-thon of Babytalk's "Keep on Move." Murphy and Mahoney's selections are rare, but not as rare as one team being responsible for two of the very best albums of the year. MICHAELANGELO MATOS
I have purchased every Ween album on the day of release starting with 1994's Chocolate and Cheese, and since then have seen them play every time they've come through town. Their albums are mileposts for my relationship with my wife, with whom I fell in love over the bent first note of "Little Birdy." So these two stoners going by the names Dean and Gene Ween are fairly entwined with my personal history. Over the years, I've been composing an essay in my head about their body of work, imagining I'd eventually write a 33 1/3–style treatise on their glorious and psychedelic artistry. Now, I'm finally compelled to record some of my Ween-related feelings because I have been listening to their new album, La Cucaracha, with such sadness and profound disappointment.
Experiencing a Ween album for the first time used to mean being surprised, delighted, and tripped out from beginning to end. Now the band has settled into a reliable pattern of spoofing genres, some of which they invented. "Fiesta" is the Mexican-sounding song. "Object" is their typical sorta-funny-sorta-not misogynist ballad in the vein of "Baby Bitch." "Learnin' to Love" is the country tune. "My Own Bare Hands" is the rager Dean Ween would have otherwise slapped on the next Moistboyz album. Jesus, it hurts to go on, but "The Fruit Man" is the reggae number. "Spirit Walker" is the mushroomy, metaphysical song; "Shamemaker" the kiddie-pop jingle; "Sweetheart" Gene's borderline sincere ballad; and "Your Party" the smooth jazz rip-off featuring the sax of David Sanborn.
David Sanborn, people!
I have long suspected that Ween had a Soft Bulletin or Bitches Brew in them, a late-career floor-to-ceiling reinvention of their sound. La Cucaracha isn't it. Following White Pepper and Quebec, they appear to have made the same album three times in a row. In refusing to venture beyond the musical territory that made them beloved of such a broad cross section of freaks, they have achieved what I once thought impossible—self-parody. Boognish help us. RYAN BOUDINOT
Ween play Tues Nov 13 at the Paramount.
SPANK ROCK & BENNY BLANCO
Bangers & Cash
To borrow a line from Ice-T, Bangers & Cash is not a pop album. For one, the cover art features a pair of big, greased-up asses that makes 2 Live Crew's As Nasty as They Wanna Be seem like Tipper Gore's idea. Secondly, Spank Rock producer Armani XXXchange is nowhere to be found, instead replaced by a 19-year-old Miami-bass jacker named Benny Blanco. Surprisingly, these changes aren't necessarily for the worse—rappers MC Spank Rock, Santogold, Black Betty, and Amanda Blank aren't as smarmy or ironic over cheap, shitty beats like this, even if their rhymes are more roller-rink gross-out ("when she touch her toes/her baby rat peak out the hole") than actual sexual menace.
The EP's lead track, "Shake That," easily sums up Benny Blanco's production style: Fluttering electro toms rip off Ying Yang Twins' "Wait" so hard, Luther Campbell would be proud. But Blanco doesn't stop there—this shit is like a game of Memory. Dude samples everything from Splack Pack's "Shake That Ass Bitch" to 2 Live Crew's "Fuck Shop," and when he gets sick of that, MC Spank Rock beat boxes the whip sound from Shannon's "Let the Music Play." It's so fucking shameless it has to be homage.
Speaking of homage, MC Spank Rock deserves some credit for being one of gallery rap's best celebrity impersonators. One moment he sounds like Eazy-E, the next, like a budget Too $hort. It's an impressive trick, but it does raise some pretty deep questions. Like, what if Blanco and Spank Rock are bringing absolutely nothing new to the table other than overly referential potty humor? And what happens when you sample the guys who sampled the guys who sampled Van Halen? Can you still get sued? BRANDON IVERS