Out of Control
The streetwise yin to Sankofa's positivist yang, Tyfu provides the Triangle with a much-needed hard-core hip hop presence, with hearts and smarts intact.
The 11-man collective (Sandman, Logic, Damage One, Lovejoy, Mstk, Skillz, Young, Tey Novel, Subtle Storm, Contact and Haxoba) boasts even more central members on Out of Control than the Wu-Tang Clan, and incidentally owes a significant stylistic debt to that N.Y. pioneer hard-core act, an influence echoed in the Rza-influenced plucked strings of "What Would You Do?" and driven home with the Method Man sample in "World Wide."
A gift for purist hip-hop fans tired of the "bling-bling," Tyfu's lyrical themes rarely stray into the school of "cash, money, hos." Instead, the group tends towards old-school boasts, often violent but never excessive and lazy, as even the casual threats of "Peace of Slug" carry a fraternal sing-song chorus.
And while the difference between Tyfu and outright misogynistic rappers might be one of degree and not kind, the philandering anthems "Hey Girl" and "Replacement Lover" make certain to focus on the playas and not the prey.
Inspired battle-rap taunts and vocal gymnastics aside, Tyfu delivers a straight manifesto on "Love of the Art," a call-to-arms for true (preferably Carolina) blue hip-hop artists to elevate their game and separate themselves from tomorrow's quick-buck has-beens.
Also, lest the contrast between the bleak rhymes of Tyfu and the more optimistic Sankofa be overemphasized, the former delivers its own brand of razor's-edge inspiration with the solidarity vow of "Live Life."
Tyfu walks around with a definite chip on its lyrical shoulder, full of anger and bluster, and the aural backdrop proves an equal menace, with flattened, ominous horns, strings and piano that compliment the gritty rhymes with stark precision.
Perhaps most obviously, it's damn good to hear such talented and focused rappers from Chapel Hill, and even better to hear them name-check their hometown with pride, and even sneak in a few other subtle references (check the dialogue at the end of "World Wide," where you can hear the television broadcast of last year's UNC-UCLA game in the background).
New Orleans and Atlanta might move more units and boast more multi-platinum acts, but with Out of Control, Tyfu cements Chapel Hill as a haven for true hip hop.
By Josh Love
A Def Needle in Tomorrow
four and 1/2
It has to be something in the water. Maybe there was a spill at the Pop Rocks plant a few years ago. There's no other logical explanation for the unusually high great-pop-bands-per-person ratio that our little town boasts.
One of the more recent additions to Chapel Hill's all-star pop roster is The Comas. The group's latest, A Def Needle in Tomorrow, on Yep Rock Records, is quite possibly the best pop album of the year.
The record's dreamy gems are vaguely reminiscent of Yo La Tengo, Stereolab and peers and neighbors Mayflies USA.
But with a lineup that includes male/female vocals, guitars, bass, drums, organ, violin, samples, loops, synths and drum machines, The Comas deftly manage to not sound too much like any of those bands. Instead they blend the mellow, quirky, melodic and dissonant for a unique sound that's very difficult to categorize, but oh-so-nice to listen to.
The band's 1999 debut, Wave to Make Friends (Plastique Recording Co.), floated along with slow but happy sincerity, and carried the band to accolades from even The New York Times. But A Def Needle takes The Comas' craft to an even higher level.
Although at first they seem like light and airy confections, on a second listen it's easy to hear that the album's 11 tracks are thick, textured and layered, more like a meaty musical artichoke than empty cotton candy.
The songs are generally more uptempo, more upbeat and louder than those on Wave, and exhibit a more developed level of song-writing - nice, neat, little well-built arrangements that alternate between rocking and rotting your teeth out.
Slick production by Brian Paulson (Wilco, Slint, Superchunk and Son Volt) thickens the sugary goodness and helps push up the lilting vocals of Andrew Harod, Margaret White and Nicole Gehweiler and their infectious sing-along quality.
It doesn't matter that for the last half of "Rancor" all that's said is "Walk through the rainbow/ Stay inside." You'll be saying it too, for at least a few days.
And perhaps in defiance of the inane garbage that mainstream radio and MTV has tried to make us believe pop music is, A Def Needle's catchiest tracks are the most original ones. "Sweet Sweet 69" is a bouncy plea of devotion. "I danced like an insect with you/ And I would die/ For you," croons Harod above a buzzing melody of drum machine, moog synths and guitar feedback.
"Sister Brewerton" meshes bluesy guitar licks with more organ and synth noises. Lyrics and a melody so sunshiny that they verge on mindless hippy fodder give way to hand-claps and harmonies, only to be smacked away like so many wasted flower children by distorted guitars and rock drums.
Perhaps sensing that song was damn catchy, even for them, The Comas included on the CD a video for it shot by Milemarker frontman Ben Davis, viewable as a CD-ROM.
The video, while nothing special, is a nice bonus to a great album. The album, definitely something special, is hopefully only a sign of things to come from one of the best bands in town.
By Brian Bedsworth
three 1/2 stars
The international family sensation The Corrs has created a harmonic blend of pop, techno, folk and some rock in its new album In Blue.
The Irish group debuted in 1995, and has sold more than eight million copies worldwide of its 1997 album Talk on the Corners. They have performed with the Rolling Stones and Luciano Pavarotti, as well as for Queen Elizabeth II and at the Nobel Peace Prize party in 1999.
One can ask how this group's patchwork sound can bring dignitaries and "commoners" together, but the answer lies in the diversity. There is something to be desired by almost every listener. In Blue takes elements of distinct genres and combines them into something exceptional.
The group's variety of sounds is not completely surprising, considering they produced some songs with Robert Lange, who has worked with Shania Twain and the Backstreet Boys.
Andrea Corr's lead vocals on "One Night" certainly bear a similarity to Shania's raspy and sexy voice; it also produces a great make-out song with its slow and airy sound and lyrics about giving "body and soul."
Speaking of sexy, if the seductive voices of these sisters don't attract a listen, you might be drawn to the band by the cover's provocative eye candy. The sisters stand poised and draped, but somehow maintain a sort of sophistication.
The Sirens of Greek mythology would be proud of The Corrs. Their slow songs are calming and smooth enough to charm many a sailor.
At some points during the album, I must admit, I had the urge to stand up and dance as if I was in some '80s girl movie. "Breathless" just cries to be played at a slumber party where girls can jump around and let loose; its fast-paced octave jumps and echoed chorus added a further invitation to dance.
Likewise, "All the Love in the World" could easily be played at a high school prom; its beats would be perfect to sway to during a semi-slow dance.
After the death of their mother, sisters Andrea and Caroline wrote "No More Cry" for their father. The melancholy lyrics, though passionate, are juxtaposed to the poppy and upbeat rhythms of the drums and keyboard.
The Corrs' lyrics are specific and emotional, though they sometimes get drowned out by the bright, upbeat rhythms and lack of consistent tonal variation. Many times I found myself getting so caught up in the catchy beat that I forgot about the words being sung.
The rhyme and slant rhyme of many words also added to the non-memorable lyrics, though many of the choruses did get trapped in the mind due to their repetition.
The last song on the album, "Rebel Heart," is an instrumental that takes listeners back to the band's Celtic home. The use of the tin whistle, violin and bodhran (a drum unique to Ireland) add individuality to the album by providing a folk element not usually found in sugar pop.
With this kind of willingness to go beyond the norms of Top 40, it's easy to see why The Corrs keep company with everyone from Royalty to the Rolling Stones.
By Meredith Bullard