Friday, 1 February 2008

DJ N-WEE: Zurich Your Shoulder

The Grey Album may still be acknowledged as one of the decade's key records, but it has borne surprisingly few direct emulations; since its emergence only two similar albums have come to any degree of prominence. One is LushLife's remarkable Kanye/Beach Boys marriage West Sounds, and the other is The Slack Album. The latter came pretty much directly on the retreating tail of Dangermouse, being a less than straightforward welding of The Black Album with Pavement's Slanted And Enchanted. It is in other ways more straightforward then Grey since both the Pavement and Jay-Z records are fourteen tracks long, and each one is fused with the other in strict consecutive order.

However, there is much more rhythmic impetus in Slack, and arguably a more compatible crossroads of seemingly polarised intentions; The Roc-A-Fella forever tepidly rational and alternately adoring and damning himself for his participation (hence it became merely one of a still-extending series of farewell albums) versus the key musical document of our age in favour of doing nothing much at all. The inherent conflict works in the favour of both acts; thus "What More Can I Singe?" offers two divergent routes to dropping out which seem to culminate in a car crash of slacker rock opera. "99 Problems Here" surprisingly places the sentiments of its two root songs closer than either might care to acknowledge; Jay-Z's snarl revealing more of its despair when backed by the rolling around of that last quarter.

Moreover, DJ N-Wee is arguably the cleverer manipulator; Pavement's loosely knit perambulations are moulded into dynamically aggressive Young Gods-type staccato sampler riffs; see for instance how the ingenious "Two States' Public Service Announcements" uses Gary Young's drumming rallentando link as the basis for Jay-Z's semi-righteous fury, or how "In The Mouth, An Encore" becomes a rousing revelation with its blend of football chant and heartbreaking Spiral spirals - or the simple thrust of "Perfume V-My Thug," the poignant remnants of "Famed Lucifer" and especially the perfect 6/8 hip hop/indie fusion with the closing "Our First Singer."

"Zurich Your Shoulder" - which, as you would expect, mixes "Zurich Is Stained" (its album's most elusive song) with "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" (its album's most straightforward song) - proves the most effective combination since its weary Spartacus striving of a refrain strikes a telling balance between the probing, endless, workaholic ambition of Carter and the just let the stone roll relaxation of Malkmus, leaving the listener wondering which of the two parties is the smarter - though both ultimately know where rolling that stone too hard might lead them.

(Many thanks to Henry Scollard for kindly burning the album on CD for me)

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