Beautiful Life (TVT)
by Jamie Kiffel
Black screen. Sound of tube TV turning on; flash to bright tube television coil in center of screen; flash into TV snow. Screen blips, brief noise of channel change. ON SCREEN: Challenger launch (two seconds). Half-second flash to black. Screen blips, brief channel change noise. ON SCREEN: TV snow. Flash to black. Brief channel change noise. ON SCREEN: Love scene (two seconds). Flash to black. SOUND: First slow wah wah pedal of Vallejo‘s “If I Was President.” ON SCREEN: Bill Clinton, addressing the nation. Cut to: Chelsea Clinton, laughing, on MTV. Cut to: Hillary Clinton, smiling and applauding. Cut to: Monica Lewinsky, exiting taxicab, ducking head. Cut to: Bill Clinton, on trial, wiping brow. VALLEJO: I would never lead anybody on/I could never be too headstrong/Nothing in the world could change me/Even if the senators are driving me crazy…
The majority of this disc is a lazy man’s Black Crowes, sometimes salsified and rippled with steel drums, occasionally stirred with a little lounge music, sometimes shaken with honky-tonk guitars. It’s as if the Gypsy Kings succumbed to the slacker pothead lifestyle, yielding occasional Spanish lyrics and single-sentence statements with powerchords stopping and starting over old tape loops of Latin beats no one remembered to turn off, while the band sits back and wails on statements rhythmically-corrected via such lyrical band-aids as “yeah,” “mama” and “c’mon.” Nonetheless, some of the hooks are strong enough to stimulate a buzz on, most notably, “If I Was President,” which makes an obvious political commentary but with some successful hophead revelation rhymes (“If I was president I’d take a trip to Memphis/And have some dinner with the Kennedys and Elvis”) as only taffyhead pop can pull off. The rag-edged axe-grinding rhythms are bound to thrash the stylishly-disheveled coifs of at least a hundred fifteen-year-old rebels, and Layne Staley-esque whines will not be recognized by the Y generation as having less power, purpose, or poetry than their originators. Everything here can be traced to the ’70s or later, but then again, the ancient Greeks were doing it on urns, so maybe this is telling us that the due date on our last vessel is expired and that our fresh quart has arrived. Still, the label reads “Wine-in-a-Box,” and I have yet to find a bottle of grappa to replace it.
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