Monday, August 25, 2008

Better Than Monopoly

Beefy is what you might call a polarizing artist.

That being said, some folks have been anxiously awaiting his newest release since its official announcement so many months ago – a particularly vocal segment of these individuals have questioned me about its progress at every turn – while others probably wouldn't accept it for free.

And that's okay. Believe it or not, the world is big enough for both of these groups.

Most people, however, are just looking for interesting music. To these people I present my pre-review review. It goes a little something like this:

If you're looking for a well produced, fun, and sometimes challenging album with a sound that's cohesive but not tedious, Rolling Doubles is for you.

If you'd care to read my track-by-track breakdown, it's below.
  1. "Olly Olly Oxen Free"
    "Olly Olly Oxen Free" opens with a sharp guitar lick that all but defines the more rock-centered slant of the album. At less than a minute and a half you scarcely have time to get into the track before it's over, but it sets off the album in a fashion all its own, and has proven, at least for me, to be an easy favorite. It exists to let everyone know that Beefy has come out to play, and it certainly accomplishes that.
  2. "You Can Call Me Beef"
    Leaked ages ago, "You Can Call Me Beef" centers on a similar guitar hook to its predecessor. The call-back vocals could prove a bit much for some, but I think they work with Beefy's new rock star shtick. The guitar is coupled with hyperactive snare work that adds to the dynamism when layered against Beef's flow, which is as measured as ever.
  3. "Tilt"
    Songs about pinball are a bit of a rarity in modern music, and while no one will mistake this for The Who's "Pinball Wizard," it does a good job shifting the album's tone. Router's rasp and a number of Beef's trademark stream-of-consciousness one-liners punctuate the track nicely, though, in truth, I prefer Mr. Thompson when he's rapping in a lower register. The heavily compressed pre-chorus (before the "Tilt" chant), however, is very satisfying.
  4. "Table Top"
    From the lyrics to the flow to Tanner's expert production – boasting instrumentation that occupies an interesting space somewhere between guitar rock and old school chiptunes – this love song to game night is easily one of Beefy's best tracks. It manages to be both a sing-along anthem and to throw in enough verbal curveballs to keep the attentive listener interested. It's the kind of song that proves to be a highlight on this (or any other) nerdcore album.
  5. "Play With Me [f. Bethzilla]"
    While relatively solid on its own merits, "Play With Me" suffers by its position on the album. "Table Top" is simply a hard act to follow. Outside of that, it's another fun loser love anthem from the house of Beef. Bethany's contribution is interesting, as is the production, but the whole song seems a bit pale in comparison to some of the album's more vibrant selections. Truthfully, this song, with its unexpected female vocal accompaniment, is a bit reminiscent of Dual Core's "Take it Back" from their Lost Reality release.
  6. "Ball Pit"
    "Ball Pit," on the other hand, is perfectly placed as well as performed. Its glitchy intro belies its smooth verse beat and oddly poignant lyrics. Songs so steeped in nostalgia are often too syrupy and superficial, but Beefy manages to tap into a childhood slice of life that most fans, particularly those who came from less than rosy circumstances, can surely relate. There's some odd core of brutal truth that powers this understated number about a birthday at Chuck E. Cheese. It's cheer tempered with a touch of hopelessness as adulthood mourns the loss of innocence.
  7. "Disconnect [f. YTCracker & The Former Fat Boys]"
    Beefy's made a number of stellar contributions to other artists' albums of late, so it's nice to see him rewarded in kind. "Disconnect" turns the melancholy of "Ball Pit" into borderline nerd rage with the help of YTCracker and $ucksex of Former Fat Boys. It also namedrops Hipster, please!, making it the best goddamn song in the world.
  8. "Last Minute Gig"
    Beefy shines at story songs, and "Last Minute Gig" is exactly that. It has a fun, techy groove and a simple premise that easily charms. There's a subtle mc chris reference in there for fans in the know, and the chorus is sure to be a crowd-pleaser in the northwest. Lyrically, it's not his most challenging work, but it's fun. And fun is its own reward.
  9. "Clueless"
    This song is not a musical tribute to the 1995 Alicia Silverstone film of the same name. Sorry to disappoint. It is, however, a one-minute monster that would sound perfect on your next nerdy mixtape. Beefy and Tanner are both in rare form, and it could easily be the thesis statement for this release.
  10. "Turn Your Radio Off"
    Another foray into the glitchier side, "Turn Your Radio Off" is a familiar – but accurate – damnation of radio culture. Hardcore heads will surely be none too pleased to hear a nerd from Pasco's treatise on the evils of pop-rap, but that doesn't make Beefy's argument unsound. It has a much harsher sound than has been heard up to this point on the release, but it's Tanner's subtle insinuation of those same cut-and-paste production tricks that Beefy warns against that truly gives it teeth.
  11. "Minimum Wage Slave [f. Shael Riley]"
    Despite it's flirtation with rock and electronica, Rolling Doubles is sorely lacking a danceable, poppy track. Until you hit "Minimum Wage Slave." The combined might of Beefy and Shael always yields interesting results, and this is no exception. While "work sucks" tracks are certainly not uncommon in the realm of nerdcore, this one has a nice give-and-take between its two lyrical contributors. Tanner delivers a great blend of both traditional and nontraditional backing. And again, my only real gripe is with Beefy rhyming in a manner slightly higher than is his comfort zone.
  12. "Dork Date"
    While the lyrics are a little fast-paced for Beef, the chorus of "Dork Date" is an anthem all its own. Cocky Beefy plays well against the awkward MC from cuts like "Play With Me," and a squeaky, creaky beat moves things along swimmingly. Old fans should keep their ears open for a brief reference to Tube Technology's "wonderfulamazing."
  13. "1337ology [f. MC Router]"
    Beefy's flow in this one is unique in that he blends both speed and smoothness in equal measure. Doc Pop and Tanner, who both contributed to the beat, manage to make an otherwise boastful track a little creepy and oddly surreal. And MC Router, in one of her final rap offerings, starts off on a high point but noticeably struggles mid-verse. Also, um, does anyone else hear a slight element of Missy Elliot's "Get Ur Freak On" in there, or is it just me?
  14. "Story Time"
    Thus far I have refrained from referring to tracks as "personal," as this element of lyric writing is all but synonymous with Beefy's style. Now, however, I will state the obvious; "Story Time" is the type of uber personal reminiscence that is no less than heart wrenching. If you have any questions about the changes in Beefy's personal life since Tube Tech, this song answers them. Musically, this one looms large and menacing, which fits it to a T. It ends the album proper, but, of course, there's more.
  15. "Table Top [tanner4105 Remix]"
    Tanner's remix of "Table Top" doesn't start off as strong as the original, but the rock accompaniment behind the verse is appropriately ferocious. It's a really interesting musical change of pace that fully embraces the album's rock leanings.
  16. "Play With Me [dj John Remix f. Bethzilla]"
    Yes. This remix features the talents of the dj John. And while I did feel the original was enjoyable (if slightly misplaced) this reinterpretation is simply phenomenal. Everything, from the beat to Bethzilla's sing-song chorus, seems brighter and more electric. It is, in short, a fantastic note on which to end.
While I didn't mark quite as much experimentation with flow as in some Beefy's other, more recent releases, there is much more focus on overall musical experimentation inherent in Rolling Doubles, and I really found that refreshing. Tanner's influence is felt throughout the album, and this, at least to my ears, is a very good thing. Tanner is a talented producer with a genuinely compelling feel for the uncommon, and, particularly at this stage in Beefy's artistic development, I think they're both helping to compound each other's musical creativity.

Admittedly, on some levels I think I may have actually enjoyed the ramshackle, mixtape appeal of Tube Technology a bit more, but there is surely a level of cohesion on Rolling Doubles that must be applauded. Moreover, it undoubtedly features a number of Beefy's best songs to date, which, even on its own merits, is a triumph.

In summation: good album, high production value, fun lyrics, a nice build-up, and a few extra surprises. It's tough not to recommend this one, especially at $8,.

That's my opinion. Do with it as you will.

"Gotta check out Hipster, please! goddamnit!"
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1 comment:

Matt said...

I haven't given it enough play to come to a full decision, but off the bat, my only gripe is that Bethzilla's spoken vocals (as opposed to what she sings) are WAY low in the mix. Like seriously low. Her interplay with Beef is such a core component of the song that that made me sad.

Beef, if you get the chance, pump the girl up in the mix!!!