Day 216: Thievery Corporation – Radio Retaliation

2 Oct

The Numbers Game

Well, here’s some more of that trip-hop stuff.  Yup, some of it still sounds pretty cool.  My habitual preliminary research of this record (insert another Wikipedia joke) revealed that this album is pretty politically charged.  That ninja-looking dude on the cover is Subcomandante Marcos, a Zapatista who led a farmer uprising in Mexico 15 years ago or something.  Yeah, political albums usually bore me.  It’s usually a bad thing when artists get the idea that their opinions matter.  This can be seen across the board (with rock, at least).  Just ask American Idiot by Green Day or The Clash’s Sandinista.   This even applies to the lowly diy punk rockers—the ones who label themselves as “anarchists” and smash you over the head with their PC ideals.  Yes, artists are aloud to have opinions.  All I’m saying is that their music is not the best place to communicate them—as doing so takes the focus off of the music, which really should be the most important aspect of an album.

All of what I just wrote is fairly pointless, for I cannot figure out exactly how Radio Retaliation is “extremely politically charged”.  It got the “boring” aspect down pat, I’ll give it that, but for an album featuring a revolutionary on its cover and tagged as “political” all over, I’m not hearing too many radical ideals.  All I see are song titles…Blasting Through the City and Sound the Alarm can be viewed as somewhat political, but without the lyrics to back them up, they just kind of fall flat.  This is a trip-hop album, after all, so coherent lyrics are few and far between.  And when there are lyrics, they seem to me to be extremely vague, like the band itself isn’t too sure what it’s rallying against.

There’s something keeping me from liking this record, and it’s got nothing to do with the supposed politics behind it.  I love Sound the Alarm and Mandala, two exciting tracks with fast tempos, for a couple of reasons:  they’re exciting and fast.  I couldn’t find too much to love outside of those two songs though.  Everything else goes on for a couple of minutes too long.  But who knows?  Had this record not been branded as “political,” my blood would not have begun boiling before I pressed play, and I may have been in the relaxed state required to enjoy a piece like this.


4 Responses to “Day 216: Thievery Corporation – Radio Retaliation”

  1. Yuanny Dollar October 3, 2011 at 7:59 am #

    Sorry Mr Ear, at least the linked song is a blast. It is a ’70s throwback for sure, but I like it. As for politics and music, I’m with you, but, every now and then, a political album kills. Check out The Coup – Party Music (with Five Million Ways to Kill a CEO). Even if you abhor the statement, it is done with such originality and humor that you have to love it. And, by the way, make sure you wear clean drawers every day.

    As for The Clash, the eternal debate is whether their political songs are the best. Those who want a statement, love them, but the rest of us just want to know whether we should stay or go.

  2. B. Frank October 3, 2011 at 3:17 pm #

    When they kick out your front door
    How you gonna come?
    With your hands on your head
    Or on the trigger of your gun.

    Just sayin’

    • Ras Baba Chops October 4, 2011 at 8:47 am #

      EXCELLENT point B.

      And may I add:

      That until there are no longer first class
      And second class citizens of any nation
      Until the color of a man’s skin
      Is of no more significance than the color of his eyes
      Me say war

      …as Bob Marley transliterated Haile Selassie(-I)’s speech to the U.N.

      Political shit can be pretty compelling in the right hands.

      Marvin Gaye did not do too badly with “What’s Going On” either. Then there is pretty much Fela Kuti’s entire recorded output, etc., etc., etc.

  3. Alex October 4, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    Well, I’m glad you liked Mandala at the very least – it’s my favourite track on the album. I always imagine myself watching a badass Bond movie set in, God knows, Mumbai or something.

    If you’re looking for politics, maybe look a little more. The album’s full of it. “Vampires” is definitely political as hell. They openly declare the IMF of being capitalist bloodsuckers raping the life out of Africa. Not exactly in those terms, but you get the point. 33 Degree is also full of political language, though I’ve yet to piece together what it all means. It’s also a lot of fun,

    I can understand, however, that the album drags on a little by the end, with Beautiful Drug, Sweet Tides, and La Femme Parallel all kinda similar and pretty close to each other.

    Maybe looking for fun or energy is the wrong approach for this album. At least, looking for those exclusively certainly is. Thievery Corporation is a large group of artists with differing styles and agendas, so the work is bound to differ. Just as some songs are more obviously political than others, some have more energy. The mellower songs definitely have some merit, and I’d encourage you to give them another listen, perhaps in a more relaxed situation where you’ve got time to drift a little. La Femme Parallel is absolutely beautiful, though the language barrier might be a little problematic.

    All this talk of French and lyrics and lack thereof brings me to another recommendation to broaden your horizons. Check out Yann Tiersen’s “Rue des Cascades”. He’s French but, ironically enough, the only track with lyrics on the album is in (slightly awkward) English. It’s incredible the range of things the guy can do with a piano, a violin and a couple accordions. He also did the soundtrack for a film called Amelie, which itself is an absolute gem.

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