his year’s been a big one for the flipside. 2007’s been like one long-ass opposite day: reliable faves like Modest Mouse, Lucinda Williams, and PJ Harvey mostly retreated from tunecraft, allowing a surprising succession of strangers to stomp on their territory—Avril Lavigne, Maroon 5, T-Pain, and for this hype-wary latecomer, Animal Collective and LCD Soundsystem. Well, chalk up another for the superflukes.
I previously mocked He Who Will Take You To School as another crest in the wave Aesop Rock hath wrought, an MC with a big dictionary and no ears, whose brain was so developed he might as well have been telekinetic, but unable to make any music that interests me. For every one Aesop there were too many Subtles, Why?s, cLOUDDEADs, just scantily-bait molten brain lava some call “indie-rap” without the character or sense of humor to shade their boasts any better than the thugs.’ Did I mention their singing voices are just as rote?
It turns out Busdriver’s the exception to that crowd after all, now showing off the skills he didn’t have to mask with vague lo-fi textures. The slept-on Roadkillovercoat cures his obscurantism loudly and gleefully, with a new voice (harder, sounds like Aesop Rock beefed up on KRS-One) and decidedly pointed-enough raps that he shouldn’t have to explain his targets this time around (as opposed to 2005’s Fear of a Black Tangent, where he so doubted his fans’ commitment to the genre that he explained the P.E. reference in the intro). Right, harder, better, faster, more intelligible: guess whom “Casting Agents and Cowgirls” concerns!
Maybe it’s just the Anti-/Epitaph logo on the spine, but Roadkillovercoat whines to these ears like classic punk: on Hollywood, jerky bosses, the Iraq war, stuff even dumb people connect with day to day. “Casting Agents” in particular uses his mocking voice to excellent effect, which does double-time donuts on a jerky piano loop about how hard whorish celebs fall (“You’re dressed up to kill yourself / While I’m still on the shelf”). And you can notate the bridge. That’s the big surprise on Regan Farquhar’s big leap into singing; the tunes finally legitimize his breath-eating jabberwock.
On “Sun Showers,” the most surprising of many such moments on Roadkillovercoat, he makes for prettier TV on the Radio crooning against peers who “view the poverty line as a threshold” on what turns out to be a near-danceable door-slam on willful obscurity. “Go Slow” actually makes something intriguing of CocoRosie, who apparently have a use between hyper-raps. And those are tougher than ever, too. “(Bloody Paw on the) Kill Floor” sounds like a cleaned-up leaving of I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, though El-P’s synth riffs never resemble “Snap Yo’ Fingers.”
Farquhar’s sense of humor pops up in the weirdest places, like the requisite closing ballad “Dream Catcher’s Mitt,” (complete with a Joanna Newsom clone on chorus backup) where he reminisces fondly, “We ate each others’ hearts out of serving dishes!” And that willingness to pinch himself and step outside the hazy fever dreams that occupy too much indie, rap, or non, these days, is what’s so shocking and winning about this unforeseen step forward.
Reviewed by: Dan Weiss
Reviewed on: 2007-10-12