25 January 2011

2010: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. & Das Racist

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
Horse Power EP
Released July 13, 2010 (Quite Scientific Records)

Short notes: It’s a trendy indie pop record! Not bad, but not amazing!

Brandon: B

I was pleasantly surprised by this little four track EP. It’s nothing at all revolutionary--this is a band riding the popularity of a certain sort of wry, cutesy indie pop with some synths behind it. Perhaps its just because so many of the recent records I’ve reviewed have sounded too long, but despite its shortcomings (nothing too original, middle of the road lyrics and music), I enjoyed this record. I thought the synths, the reverb, and the airy quality (they covered “God Only Knows,” for christsake, which reminded me of that minute when indie pop bands were referencing the Beach Boys a few years ago) worked for the songs--just busy enough to be engaging (looking at you, Beach House), but not fussy.. It’s easy listening, but worth it, especially given the limited commitment.

Lin: B-

There's not much to this 13 and a half minute EP. It has its moments -- the third track "Simple Girl" being the best, sounding like a late early period Beatles piece. But there are more things working against it: the choice of a cover, one as particularly well known as "God Only Knows" seems more like a ploy and makes it even harder to judge how much I like this band. Additionally, my disdain for bands like Animal Collective and anything that sounds like them keeps me from really getting into any of the songs. It's not a great comparison, but the production and other musical choices give just enough of that taste that I can't just take it. Kinda like how eggplant overpowers anything it's in if you hate eggplant, you know? So, the long and the short of it is: there's not enough here to really get a good taste, but what I do get doesn't particularly leave me wanting more.

Das Racist
Sit Down, Man
Released September 14, 2010 (mixtape)

Brandon: C+

“Took a lot of samples out, you don't gotta clear those
Made a lot of weird raps, you don't want to hear those”
- "You Can Sell Anything”

That pretty much sums it up. About a quarter of the time, this is the most interesting hip-hop record I’ve heard in years, filled with dense pop culture references and dry humor over cleverly composed, sample heavy beats. At their best, Das Racist sound like Das EFX, if Das EFX had gone to a preppy east coast liberal arts college. And I’m not joking. I love Das EFX.

But when this record is bad, it’s the flip side of all of those positive characteristics--dense, pedantic, musically repetitive, and not terribly funny. Now, I love self-consciously weird hip-hop. When I was in college (just a few years before these dudes, at a much less prestigious liberal arts college with a much less self-conscious institutional dialogue about race and sexuality), my first favorite hip-hop record was the Deltron 3030 album with Del tha Funkee Homosapien and Dan the Automator. We also loved Kool Keith, and the Gravediggaz, and a lot of alternative artists who were self-consciously pushing against the gangsta mainstream and the too-serious backpack types. But when I compare Das Racist to those groups, what I hear is rappers both trying to be funny and trying to make it sound like they aren’t joking. It’s worth checking out, but I’d guess you’ll come away more frustrated than thrilled.

Lin: B-

It makes a lot of sense for a band like this to be called "Das Racist" -- it's a poking-the-bear-with-a-stick move signifying their satarization of...whatever. The problem with satire, though, is not one that the artist can easily correct as it lies with the observer. I'm relatively knowledgeable about hip-hop and the tropes of rap music, but it's not my thing and I don't overdo it any more than I overdo my love of country music or British punk. What I'm saying is, you can skewer Sacred Cows, but no one cares if all they want is a hamburger. So, the "humor" that other critics point to in Sit Down, Man is lost on me, not because I don't get it, but because I don't care.

So what's left is just the music itself -- and there's not a whole lot there that brings me back. We got two tracks that show why Das Racist are getting the praise they are ("hahahaha jk?" and "People Are Strange" (though there's a good chance I like the latter because I love that sample)). There are a couple more that fall under the "Okay, I can see why folks like this" category. But for the most part it's boring or tedious as, at 78 minutes, the album/mixtape falls into the same "gotta use all the time we can" trap as so many other rap albums. It's fine for what it is, I guess, but there's no way I'm taking it over any of the already reviewed rap albums.

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