Gimme My Crown Back
Lady Sovereign reigns supreme; The Strokes’ Albert Hammond, Jr. rules; and the view’s nice from The New Mexican Revolution’s throne
Unfortunately, the aural shock of Run The Road was only felt in hipster circles. And, as a genre, grime is all but dead. Interestingly, the sole alum of the compilation to impact the hip-hop/dance/pop singles world is a diminutive teenage girl named Lady Sovereign.
Public Warning is Lady Sovereign’s first proper full-length, and the big surprise is that the album is not overly dumbed down for popular consumption. Sure, the music is a bit more melodic and accessible, but S.O.V.’s wit and intelligence have not been shunted.
So, the burning question is will Lady Sovereign’s arresting meld of electro beats, dancehall toasting, and, yes, dance/pop work as a stateside singles commodity? Early indicators evince that, yes, S.O.V. might have the ability to follow up on M.I.A.’s sadly misdirected U.S. conquest. Maybe the release of Public Warning is one of those rare instances where timing and real talent are synchronous.
Smart, sassy, and funny, Lady Sovereign straddles the vocal DMZ between straightforward rap, the sung/spoken chant of dancehall ragga, and the straightforward melodies of dance pop. The resulting is a sound that just might translate into big success, provided S.O.V.’s management can arrange for the proper exposure that would be provided by a cell phone commercial. Let’s hope the suits play their cards right with Lady Sovereign.
Albert Hammond, Jr.
The Ron Wood or Sterling Morrison of the band, second fiddler Albert Hammond, Jr., has faded into a subordinate role in The Strokes. And, judging by Hammond’s solo debut, Yours to Keep , The Strokes have made a foolish management decision by appointing Hammond an outfield position.
Kicking off with “Cartoon Music for Superheroes,” Yours to Keep reminds listeners why they loved The Strokes way back in 2001, when faux garage rock and “The” bands were the entrée de jour for hipsters worldwide. Chock full of the bare guitar patterns and sing-along melodies that made The Strokes such a sheer pleasure back in the day, Yours to Keep flies by quickly, a caffeinated confection that is unencumbered by high artistic aspirations.
The album is a collection of songs that The Strokes rejected for some unexplainable reason. Albert, Jr. and co. play admirably, and Mr. Hammond’s sings ably, unfortunately lacking the sexy swagger that is Julian Casablancas’ forte. Truthfully, the only drawback to the album is imagining how these arrangements would’ve sounded if they had been fleshed out by the home team, as intended. For now, Yours to Keep will have to serve as a reminder of the charms of a group that has lost its focus. Alas and alack.
The New Mexican Revolution
One of these days I’m gonna lay my body down , singer Wes Shirley sings on “Lay My Body Down.” Give up this collection of knowns. The journey through these five songs begins with disillusionment: It’s the easiest thing in the world to make promises in good weather , Shirley sings on “If the Creek Don’t Rise.” Then we end at a point of serenity. But it’s not a happy ending. It’s a moment of peace, of acceptance in spite of it all.
And I hope for something more , comes the final track. When I find myself in the sun it feels so good. There’s sparse guitarwork and the occasional chime from a sitar, all of it resonating behind a few metronomic puffs of a flute.