Billy Joel

Review: Action Bronson – Mr. Wonderful

It will be difficult to find a rap album released this year as fun as Action Bronson’s major label debut, Mr. Wonderful–how can you not love a guy who looks like this and has the bravado to claim that he “took up a meeting at Paramount/typecast as a romantic lead”?  Bronson drops plenty of one-liners that are alternately hilarious and clever, and in contrast to the prevailing atmosphere in hip-hop today, he keeps the mood light.  His particular style may bring to mind Ghostface Killah, but Bronson’s focus is less on elaborate crime-based storylines and more on finding satisfaction in the simple pleasures, like a “plate [of] some melon and prosciutt’.”

He may have gained a certain level of notoriety from a series of mixtapes and various EPs that were underground hits, but Bronson realizes that Mr. Wonderful is an opportunity to introduce himself to a whole new audience.  This explains why most of the album is focused on establishing the basic mythos of “Action Bronson”, as best exemplified by the comparing his origins to the creation of the genetically-engineered dinosaurs of Jurassic Park in “Falconry”.  The album is not just tossed-off quips though, as there are several callbacks throughout–Bronson kicks off the album boasting that he’s got a brand new guitar/got a jazz guitar over a Billy Joel sample, and then said guitar provides the melody for “Terry”.  Sometimes the clues are more difficult to spot, but reveal themselves after a bit of digging–in the line before the Jurassic Park comparison on “Falconry”, Bronson tells us he’s “listenin’ to German guitar riffs, what a life” and then a few songs later, this obscure track provides the main sample for “Only In America”.

Bronson takes a risk with a conceptual trilogy that makes up the middle third of the album.  “City Boy Blues” is the most musically adventurous track on Mr. Wonderful, providing a refreshing change of pace, and “A Light In the Addict” provides a bridge between the trilogy and the rest of the album.  The highlight though is the conclusion, the spurned lover’s lament “Baby Blue”.  Mark Ronson does a great job emulating the style of usual Bronson collaborator Party Supplies with the easy jazz, bouncy piano, and soulful hooks, but it’s Chance the Rapper that steals the show with his guest verse.  Chance wishes for a series of hilariously precise misfortunes to befall his former ladyfriend that range in malevolence from relatively harmless to rather painful (“I hope the zipper on your jacket get stuck” to “I hope you get a paper cut on your tongue from a razor in a paper cup”), though he ends on a rather mature note in wishing her happiness.

Mr. Wonderful is not a great artistic triumph, but not all albums need to be.  Sometimes you need to kick back and have a little fun, but in a way that does not insult your intelligence, and Action Bronson fulfills that role perfectly.  The man even offers some great advice: “Opportunity be knockin’–gotta let a motherfucker in.”

Catching Up On The Week (Dec. 19 Edition)

Some #longreads for your weekend as you mourn the end of the greatest television show of all-time

The music world is still buzzing about the surprise release of D’Angelo’s Black Messiah, with critics greeting it with universal acclaim.  We’re certain that you can find a multitude of thinkpieces on the album from everyone and their cousin on the web, but this analysis from Complex is probably the best you’ll find.

Just how big was that surprise release from D’Angelo?  Big enough that it pushed aside the news that Modest Mouse will finally release a follow-up to We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank as their new album Strangers to Ourselves is set to be released on March 3 of next year.  Meanwhile, keep their new single “Lampshades on Fire” playing on repeat, at least through this weekend.

This article was originally published in January, but we didn’t come across it until this week, so it’s new for us: Buzzfeed explains how the punk band Crass fooled MI6 and other intelligence agencies into thinking there was a Soviet disinformation campaign, all with a crappily-produced prank tape.

It’s the weekend–do you need any other excuse to read an analysis of Billy Joel’s ridiculous hit “We Didn’t Start the Fire”?

And finally, we like millions of others are mourning the end of The Colbert Report, though we’re hopeful that Stephen Colbert will do a terrific job of taking over The Late Show.  Like many, we were impressed by the turnout of former guests that appeared for the final sing-along, but we also were delighted to hear that as the credits rolled for a final time that Colbert had selected our personal pick for greatest song of all-time, Neutral Milk Hotel’s “Holland, 1945”, to be the musical accompaniment.  It turns out that Stephen’s selection of the song was not just a result of his good taste, but the result of a personal connection to the song that is quite touching.  Just don’t ruin the moment by clicking through the links to see what the rest of Slate had to think about music this past year.

Catching Up On The Week (Nov. 14 Edition)

Some #longreads for your weekend, as we bring “Foo Fighters Week” to a close…

Fulfilling our need to have a #longread specifically on the Foo Fighters, Consequence of Sound takes a look at the career of Dave Grohl for their FACES retrospective.

Speaking of the Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl came up in the music controversy of the week, as the industry deals with the fallout of Taylor Swift pulling her music from Spotify.  First, I’d recommend reading this letter from songwriter Aloe Blacc which illustrates how the Spotify business model shortchanges artists, and then taking a look to see that pop artists aren’t the only ones concerned about the streaming service.  Dave Grohl, as per his usual, gave his own opinion on Spotify, which of course was only half-reported in headlines around the internet (the qualifier “But I can understand how other people would object to that” changes the tenor of his response).  Of course, as the frontman of a band that CAN sell out Wembley, he’s in a different spot than a lot of other musicians, so I’d weigh his sentiments with only a grain of salt.

For some reason, I feel this is the right weekend to finally getting around to reading an extended essay on Billy Joel from the New Yorker.

It may be hard for some of our younger readers to believe, but there was a time when Ice Cube was a legitimate musician, but one of the most feared rappers on the planet!  Relive those years at least for a little bit (or experience them for the first time, if that’s the case) with this AV Club look back to his landmark album The Predator.

And finally, with Pink Floyd releasing their first album in decades this week with The Endless River, Pitchfork takes the opportunity to explore the unexpected connection between the prog rock of Floyd and the evolution of punk and other independent music.