Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

Chuck wagon’d

| May 6, 2012

No one really addresses it, but one of the hallmarks of post-millennial hip-hop has been very punk rock: you don’t need a good voice to make an impact. Danny Brown epitomizes this and is in town this week, along with Ty Segall, Stryper, Maps & Atlases, and Plants And Animals

We’ve come a long way from Melle Mel and Kurtis Blow, but even beyond the interjections of Snoop Dogg and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, the MC ideal has been someone who commands the mic, enunciates, and (most underrated) can spit in relative tune with the music. DMX challenged this in the extreme — as did Busta Rhymes, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and even Ja Rule — but today it seems atonality or a harmonic indifference has become the way. Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj operate independent of melodies and beats, while even Kanye West possess a nasally intonation and lack of authority that can make his voice crack when he attempts conviction. In that sense, Danny Brown‘s long slog in the underground and prison system was just spent waiting for time to catch up to him. The material on last year’s XXX (Fool’s Gold) breakthrough didn’t just hinge on verses about winters using an oven as a heater or brutally graphic sexual exploits, but how his misfit pipes portrayed a split personality. He almost sounds like he’s battling himself on the final cut, “30” (the album title refers to explicit content as well as Brown’s age), and creates a tension that transcends fads. (Wednesday@Riviera Theatre with Childish Gambino.)

Speaking of underrated, it’s great how we can talk about Ty Segall‘s “old” material but chronologically only need to go back about two years. In a flurry of releases since he was unearthed in the same garage-rock revival that delivered Jay Reatard, Segall declines to stay in place very long. On last year’s Goodbye Bread (Drag City), he tried to divine if things really sounded better slow, and on a collaborative album this spring with opener White Fence he won’t let any structure take its coat off. Hair finds Segall and Tim Presley plotting, scheming . . . doing anything to disrupt whatever strolls they can lull you into. Still working from a customary palette of ’60s guitar bands, they kick out chairs, stick fingers in your back, and turn lights on just as you’ve fallen asleep. (Thursday@Lincoln Hall with White Fence and Strange Boys.)

Everyone knows that the great irony of the Stryper story is that they went platinum despite being assertively evangelical in an overwhelmingly debauched pop-metal world. Less spoken of, the band’s first real taste of success was in a place that couldn’t put less emphasis on religion if it tried: Japan. Take that further, when Stryper began to make their move in the U.S., some of their most vocal critics were highly visible members of the Religious Right. (Though, you could probably wager that sincere Satanists never rated Ozzy Osbourne highly, either.) As vendors of a particularly ridiculed musical style, Stryper may never get much credit for the barriers they demolished. Unfazed, they ended a 14-year hiatus in 2005 and dutifully went back to spreading the word. Of course, the landscape has changed so much that they didn’t take much flak for last year’s The Covering (Big3) — which includes their versions of songs originally recorded by Osbourne, Judas Priest, Kiss, and more — or the distressing artwork on their two post-reunion studio albums. But now that irony’s been brushed aside, there’s nothing left to do but play. (Thursday@Tailgaters in Bolingbrook.)

Whether people respond to it en masse is another thing, but it’s difficult not to have an opinion about Beware And Be Grateful (Barsuk). Maps & Atlases‘ sophomore full-length finds the local band quite a distance from their first EPs, where the proggy touches have morphed into something resembling mid-’80s Peter Gabriel. Part of that’s due to the husk of Dave Davison‘s voice, but Beware takes a preponderence of trendy African rhythms and guitar lines and turns them into something American and summery with a production sheen that’s as integral to the album as the songwriting. (Friday@Metro with So Many Dynamos and Sister Crayon.)

The reversion to vinyl hasn’t necessarily coincided with a revived approach to making music specifically for 33s, though the idea defines Plants And AnimalsThe End Of That (Secret City). The first half plops down on the couch, and the Montreal-based band effectively churn out an indie-rock Americana, admitting to “Sittin’ in the sun/blowing smoke/and talking shit with no reasons.” But then the fifth track, “Crisis!,” flips a switch, the amplifiers register their unhappiness, and we get desperate cries like, “We’re running for our lives!” Two sides, one piece. Love it. (Friday@Schubas with Hundred Waters and American Wolf.)

— Steve Forstneger

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Category: Stage Buzz, Weekly

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