Originally published in Arthur No. 17/July 2005
C: We meet again.
D: Indeed. [goes to fridge, returns with chilled brownie]
C: Okay? We are ready to begin. D, I wish you clarity.
D: Yes. Focus pocus.
Global Enlightenment Part 1 DVD
C: I thought this was gonna be Keith being oh-so-weird but actually it’s him being clever… He’s talking philosophy.
D: He’s talking seltzer water.
C: He’s talking about theft, it’s a favorite subject of his. And this is about how he dealt with that: by doing something that is unstealable. Listen to what he’s saying…
Kool Keith on screen, talking about what he keeps in his refrigerator: “I learnt that people like to steal your sodas. Seltzer water, people don’t like it. You could send a big jug of seltzer water around, and nobody would touch it… But people taking my Hawaiian Punches, people drinking all my Tropicana. That happened for weeks, and months. I really learned that seltzer water keeps people away. It’s like a twist: I really don’t like it myself, but I like it because people don’t like it. You have to do it that way. But you have to learn how to like it, like it’s so good to you: it’s SO GOOD to have a glass of seltzer water.”
C: That’s the way I’ve felt about Keith’s last, uh, five records. They’re hard to like! But now I gotta listen to them again, because they were hard to like on purpose!
D [musing]: Hmm. I have to admit I did not even hear those records.
C: Keith is brilliant even when he’s talking about being weird as a conceptual survival strategy. This is funny: watching Keith on Tour. It’s a sustained critique of status-obsessed modern hip-hop. So, he’s supposed to be showing how large he’s living, that’s what hip-hop stars do on their DVDs. But here he’s living in a hotel, he’s eating at Popeye’s. He’s got no hot women on his wing so he follows one around buys her some shorts. He hangs out with music stars friends, that is, the streetbusking guitarist. He has trouble finding liquor. The whole thing is done straight….
D: Even straighter than the Turbonegro film.
C: Which is saying a lot, when you think about it.
Kool Keith on screen, walking through Manhattan’s streets: “I’m always touring, even when I’m walking…. Am I above the streets? I am above the streets at my mentality level. Everybody now raps behind the microphone and a couple of bodyguards and they say they’re the streets. You see a lot of rappers, they walk around with a lot of people with ‘em, with headsets? Their reality is not even reality. It’s a fantasy. I don’t sit in an SUV, doing my documentary, ride around and talk about ‘I was in the streets, I live the street, I am the streets.’ You mean you ride through the streets. Ha. You know what I’m saying?”
C: He’s goofing like Sun Ra. Everything has at least two and a half meanings.
D: Thirty-five minutes of new stoner comedy-philosophy.
Little Freddie King
You Don’t Know What I Know
D: [looking at cover, reading the album title] “You don’t know what I know?” I have a feeling he knows the same thing Kool Keith knows. Which it is I do not but I am trying to know.
C: It’s obviously a Fat Possum production.
D: Which means it’s thick enough to eat with a fork.
C: Raw John Lee Hooker feel, without sheen or Clapton cameos.
D: John Lee Hooker would never have a song called “Crack Head Joe.”
C: It’s about time someone paid tribute to a crackhead.
C: Blowfly is an old R & B songwriter dude who’s been running the crude parody game for 75 years. Wears a cape and mask to protect his secret identity. Totally classic if you’re in a certain mood.
D: We have to give him some major credit to the cover picture, which is a takeoff on the Bad Brains’ first album cover, only Blowfly is doing a urine lighting strike on the Capitol building.
C: Blowfly has to be experienced live, he’s a comedian provocateur goofball. (You can see why he’s on Jello Biafra’s label now.) I saw him opening for the Pixies and Soul Asylum once at a half-empty Universal Amphitheatre, and I know this is damning by faint praise Blowfly blewflied them off the stage. And get this: his ENTIRE band was wearing GIANT…RAINBOW….AFROS!!!!
D: [looks at sleeve picture of Blowfly with his middle fingers extended] I like his fingernails more than his new record.
C: To update George Clinton: Smell my fingernail.
A Band of Bees
Free the Bees
C: There are songs on here that are as good as the originals they’re styled after– whether it’s the Zombies, or the ballads, the Afrobeat stuff. The writing is great, the spirit is there, the production is definitely there, but… Could it be that they are the men who know too much? With the internet and Mojo every phase of Western pop music is now available to kids, and it’s all presented with this sexy, dramatic gosh-wow. What does that mean for young smart musicians? Are they perhaps over-educated in music history?
D: Maybe you are an over-educated listener!
C: Could be true. I’m sure if I was 12, I’d listen to this one record all summer. But back then, you did listen to only one record all summer because that’s the most that you could get your hands on. You had just enough money saved up to buy a new record. Do kids even do that anymore, listen to one record for a whole summer? This one record, with all its styles and the sheer rich quality of the writing and playing, would keep me going. But now…
D: Now you are becoming an old man. Which is sad for you, because for me this is wonderful stuff. It’s not just vintage décor, the innards are top-notch too. And as my good friend Gertrude Stein said, A good song is a good song is a good song.