[Bring the Noise deleted scene #66]
Blissblog, March 22, 2004 / March 30, 2004
by Simon Reynolds
pleased to meat ya
… Re. Crunk's deep-bass growl... it's funny how when Ja Rule does it's like a thug rap update of Barry White the Walrus of Love, but w/ Crunk it's just pure leering menace, zero slowjamz potential. (Did I hallucinate this or is there actually a line in "Get Low" that goes "until the sweat runs down my balls?"). [Anthony Miccio’s] shouting-at-strippers thing is spot on, cos as Barthes said in Mythologies, striptease isn't about eroticism, it's about fear.
When I hear that bleary baleful rasp of unison baritone voices on Crunk records, it always makes me think of bad breath--you can almost smell this barking reek of chicken, beer, and stale weedsmoke hitting you in the face. Chicken.... hmmm... that's the thing about Crunk, it's carnivorous. It's all about surrendering to your basest appetities, being a predator. That's what makes it so vital... yet its vitality is intrinsically bound up with a kind of death-force, a monstrous will to make the world dead. Having mentioned Mythologies, I'm going to up the over-interpretation stakes and bring The Sadeian Woman into it, if only to get off on having a sentence that contains the names Angela Carter and Lil Jon in it. But in that book--whose subtitle if I recall is something like 'the pornographic imagination'-- Carter makes play of the fact that the German word for flesh-- fleisch--is the same as the word for meat. She writes that every time she sees the word she shudders. She then goes on to discuss how a certain objectifying form of (male, natch) sexuality turns everything into meat, devitalized and dead. Now, ur-Crunk text "What's Your Fantasy" I always thought had a hint of the Sadeian about, the scurrying ominousness of the music making the parade of sexual configurations Ludacris enumerates seem strangely joyless. At any rate as per Carter's fleisch thing you could pretty much summarise the lyrical universe of Crunk in two words: BEEF and RUMP. Men: I'll turn you into carcass. Women: you're just meat to me.
(Interesting too that as per recent New York Times piece Lil Jon has moved into the beating-yr-meat market and actually gotten into cross-synergy with the porn industry, etc)
dogg breath pt 2/the spiritual godfathers of crunk?
Picking up on that crunk-as-carnivore-music theme, it suddenly struck me that all that metal on their teeth must be a bit like braces--really bad for meat-shred retention. (Are rappers good about flossing? [Boom-boom!!!])
Also started wondering where I’d heard those halitosis-rasp baritones before--and then it hit me: The Stranglers! Aren’t they kinda like the godfathers of crunk? There was that infamous open-air concert in Battersea or someplace like that, where they had strippers onstage. And think of all those songs of sexual malice like the leering "Peaches" and the truly twisted “School M’Am” and the ho'-sanna “Princess of the Streets” (“she’s no lad-eee… she’s a sweet piece of meat”). “London Lady” slags off a skeez (except what she--a well-known punk scenester/journalist--is gold-digging for ain’t cash, it’s cred). And let’s not forget that char-ming B-side track “Crabs”.
The Stranglers-as-protocrunk ur-text though is “Bring On The Nubiles”--compare the title/chorus with Lil Jon’s ”all these females”: the idea is, this song is the opposite of a song for and about a special Lady, it’s aimed at a faceless plurality of fuckable fleisch, a banquet of ass and gash. "Nubiles" also has the strange malicious-witholding-of-satisfaction lyric "and when the fever reaches you/I'll hide beneath my zip". Pretty fetid, pretty rank, inside Mr Hugh "I Like Dominating Women" Cornwell's skull, I reckon.
Yeah, the Stranglers, they also had a whole carnivore theme--they identified with two carrion-eating creatures, first the Rat, and then the Raven. Hugh Cornwell’s gruffmale malevolence is one thing, but Jean-Jacques Burnell took it to a whole lower sewer level of nastiness: “Ugly” (“I guess I shouldn’t have strangled her to death… but she had acne”), and how about this verse from the Yukio Mishima paean “Death and Night and Blood”: “hey little baby don’t you lean down low/your brain’s exposed and it’s starting to show/your rotten thoughts, yeuuuuch”. In classic masculine abjection-projection syndrome, the “rotten thoughts” are all JJ’s. Yeah Burnel's voice simply is the pus of male self-loathing spurting free.
BUT (again, like making allowances for crunk cos when all’s said it rocks, unfortunately) The Stranglers remain a favorite band of that era, I can never quite disown them like I know I should. At the time their misogyny just seemed part and parcel of punk’s equal-opportunity animosity, that really crucial part of punk's appeal that related to pure monstrous evil, c.f. “Bodies” and “Belsen”, or the icky-grody side of Devo. Plus they had this really quite idiosyncratic and odd sound, and even the Doors comparison only takes you so far.... “Nice ‘N Sleazy” for instance sounds like nothing else in pop. Dave Greenfield did some cool stuff with Moogs and electronic keyboards on tracks like “The Raven” where the Stranglers developed this kind of rok-disko sound picking up where the electrothrob of “Hello I Love You” left off. And Burnel did a whole electronic solo album come to think of, Euroman Cometh, with an anti-America/European-unity-as-vital-geopolitical-counterbalance concept. Never heard it though.
But yeah with crunk and Stranglers, the nub of it is: you can smell death on their breath.