Busdriver – Fear of a Black Tangent

This CD came out at start of the year and finally holds no fear for our reviewer. Busdriver plays the part of a misunderstood youth having a bad time with his art, record companies and your fears of a Black Tangent. The title tips its hat at Public Enemy’s classic album of similar title. But there is no equivalent ‘Fight The Power’ track that’s going to take Busdriver easily to the cash-hearts of the populous.

His list of complaints sound like a rehash of Frank Zappa moans of 70s transposed to the underground scene of today. Comparisons with Frank could be extended to Busdriver’s pyrotechnic vocals matching any FZ guitar solo for speed and dexterity with equal humour and parody while Frank’s one-time best-mate Captain Beefheart could have come up with the left of leftfield ‘Note Boom’ and ‘Low Flying Winged Books’.
You’ll get the idea if I said ‘Low Flying Winged Books’ sounds like a west coast rapper meets Ivor Cutler attempting the Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’. So I’d suggest it is best to start with the tracks on the 12″. It was only after I kept replaying that I returned to the CD for another go. ‘Unemployed Black Astronaut’, “I am the first black astronaut to walk the bare moon from my air balloon”, ‘Happiness (‘s unit of Measurement)’ and ‘Avantcore’ (strange circus clown theme un-lullaby) won me over together with ‘Cool Band Buzz’ (one for the muso journos) and ‘Wormholes’ (starts with furious bongos with “a For Sale sign under your Stargate”?).
Whilst there’s a team of producers on this album (Daedelus‘, Danger Mouse, Thavius Beck, Omid, and Zax) there is a strange cohesiveness throughout the 13 tracks. MCs Rude and Ellay Khule join in on ‘Map Your Psyche’ as they break the speed limit with a string quartet backing and a serious baseline. Mikah-9 and 2Mex appear on ‘Sphinx’s Coonery’ with special mentions of ‘Hakuna Matata’ and ‘Dolce & Gabbana’!
‘Befriend The Friendless Friendster’ would not have been out of place on Daedelus’ Exquisite Corpse album. The backing track is some tap dance 30s Marx Brothers racetrack whilst he appeals “Lets make Friends”. But by the final track ‘Lefty’s Lament’ he’s asking, “Why do you hate me?”, “Is it my numerous releases on Ninja Tune? Or my ongoing fling with Reese Witherspoon?”
Busdriver delivers a vocal jazz, spoken word wit-spit machine tooled lyric freestyle where he more often pushes the accelerator than the brake peddle. So complicated and simple. Insular and communal. Witty and confrontational. Mellow and L’avant hip hop. I’ve no real insight what it’s about though. The cover hints of the conflicts contained therein. Busdriver’s face appears from the dark background with delicate pressed flowers to the fore. Could there be such as thing as essential leftfield hip hop? Is he destined to be ignored? Do we need reheated Pop? B-b-buy this record. You heard me, go out and buy this unit of measurement and you’ll understand (even if it takes a while).
Reviewed: CD Cat. No. BDCD077 (Release Date – 28th February 2005)
1 Yawning Zetigeist intro (freestyle)
2 Reheated Pop
3 Unemployed Black Astronaut
4 Happiness (‘s unit of Measurement)
5 Avantcore
6 Wormholes
7 Map Your Psyche
8 Cool Band Buzz
9 Note Boom
10 Low Flying Winged Books
11 Befriend the Friendless Friendster
12 Sphinx’s Coonery
13 Lefty’s Lament
‘Avantcore’ 12″ Single (Release Date – 4th April 2005)
1. Avantcore (Original & D-Styles Remix)
2. Happiness(‘s Unit of Measurement) (Original & Remix)
3. Unemployed Black Astronaut (Original & Nobody Remix)
Big Dada