The Hang of Music: Me Indulging Myself

Ah, time for a bit of fun I think. How’s that? With some offensive electronic rap metal. Gotta love me some offensive electronic rap metal!

So I shall save Mindless Self Indulgence’s debut, “Tight”, from languishing at the back of my record collection, blow the dust off, and play you the eponymous track.

The track’s called “Tight”.

I am a huge MSI fan, but it occurred to me a few weeks back that I haven’t listened to any of their earlier stuff. I discovered that I have listened to their thirty track epic second album (epic as in huge, not great), but have neglected to even notice the existence of their 14 track, half-hour long first album. My priorities must be so wrong that you can see their wrongness from outer space, or at least the mesosphere.

Despite how awesome they are, I feel like I need to put up a [TRIGGER WARNING] for… something… I don’t know. They’re like Maximum the Hormone for a lot of reasons, including the fact that you never know when they’re about to say something unadulteratedly horrible. The lead singer’s called Jimmy Urine, fer christ’s sake.

Exhibit A: rap – a genre not know for pulling any punches, least of all in the 90s. It’s pretty obvious from the start that this is from the time in their lives when the “rap” part of “electronic black metal rap” was at the forefront of their minds. The songs have a heavier emphasis on the rapping than on subsequent albums, and track two is even a cover of a Method Man song, “Bring the Pain”.

Even more so, they seem to have picked the most reference heavy rap song they could. The quote density here is so high, it’s OVER NINE THOUSAAAAAND! Let’s see how many of them we can find. “Kriss Kross”, “OJ [Simpson]”, “Patrick Swayze”, “Wu Tang Clan”, “Driving Miss Daisy”; even a bizarre yet almost mandatory “Star Wars” reference. I sometimes feel that if you reference enough stuff, eventually you pass the point whereby Star Wars is almost mandatory.

And Oancitizen is here to remind us that media oversaturation is, frankly, a little sad.

Similarly, the album features a number of other rap mainstays, such as a bunch of interludes and jokes that have absolutely no bearing on the rest of the album or each other. A couple of the tracks are just answering machine messages where someone tries to hire the band, but can’t remember their name correctly (“Mindless… Senseless mind of… whatever, you know what I’m talking about”). Others are songs in name alone – they have a tune, and words, but are only about a minute long. These include, but are not limited to:

  • “Apple Country” plays like video game music to the cheeriest side scrolling platformer you’ve ever seen/heard/whatever. Why did they do that?
  • “Grab the Mic”, a cross between a live intro nicked from a gig, where Jimmy Urine talks about his penis with a jewish accent, and a decent merge into the next track.
  • The super sekrit hidden track, that sounds like… Holy Fuck, is that a Stephen Lynch parody?

Compare these with the arguments Em has with his manager, or the skits Kanye West puts together about the fraternity of “Broke Phi Broke”, or the quiz show panels on De La Soul’s “3 Feet High and Rising”. For some reason, rap and hip hop seem to have become a breeding ground and safe haven for silly skits on your album. It’s probably the emphasis that rap places on words above all. Hell, Public Enemy’s “Fear of a Black Planet” was almost entirely skits.

But rap isn’t the only genre that they try and cover – oh no. In fact, with all of its rhythm shifting and genre blending, “Tight” is the track that takes the biscuit. What with the control it must have taken to record, the song really earns its name.

However, the track is much less blatant with what it’s nicking from: I’m gonna guess bits of 50s rock and swing, but I’m merely extracting that from my posterior. Maybe the band themselves don’t know what I’m talking about. All I know is that this song must have been a headache for the drummer and bassist. Either that or a field day.

The more I listen to this album, the more I hear 80s synth pop. “Dickface” (**sigh**) sounds like “Money for Nothing”, and that is not a bad thing per se.

Actually, back up – I want to talk about how offensive the language on this album is. You cool with that? Look; a lot of the time people try to justify genuinely horrible things by saying they’re too far the other way to be taken seriously. Just look at Catiemonster’s paraphrasing of the counter to accusations of sexism in “Lollipop Chainsaw”. (If that sentence makes any sense, it’s a miracle.) “It’s too over the top to be offensive.”

And to that response to a response, I call bullshit. Just look at Poe’s Law:

“Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won’t mistake for the real.

That’s a real thing. And there are a lot of b-words, f-words and whatever thrown throughout this album. And if that’s not OK with you, then don’t listen.

But I would posit this – MSI are, in part, a reflection of the offensiveness of both the genres of Metal (where the traditional “fill in the words yourself” lyrics are about death and destruction, rather than love songs) and Rap (a genre many people are put off by its frequent aggressive and sexist overtones). And by taking both of those and expanding upon them, they highlight the overuse of this in music.

You can’t be too over the top to be inoffensive. But you can be over the top enough to comment and criticise.

And believe me, they are over the top offensive. In “Bite Your Rhymes”, a standard bragging braggodocio piece, Jimmy Urine just started rapping about “kicking juice”, then said how he had  “the final solution“… then he rhymed it with itself! With itself! Call the music police!

Though I class them as metal, in many respects that is the least of their genres. Musically, they share more in common with rap and electronic music. Synths and braggadocio? Drum loops and quick rapping? Call that metal? The band themselves are proof that content and attitude reign supreme in music. Either that or they are a testament to the sheer flexibility and absorbtiveness of metal. It’s like the English language, in genre form.

The weird thing is, this really shouldn’t work. None of the songs are particularly coherent. And the flows between songs aren’t particularly clear either. But where for some artists, this may be an example of sloppy writing, they manage to still sound good. I’m not sure why it is; could be their cocksure attitude, could be how “not seriously” they take it all. But the weird, silly, nonsensical album ends up being fun.

They do what they want, and it just so happens that what they want is to be the most offensive, weirdest metal group I’ve ever heard rap about silly things and creepy things all at once.

And while they fail to beat “Maximum The Hormone” on that front, at least they’ve got better synths.

***

And I’ve gone all this way without mentioning Jhonen Vasquez, creator of “Invader Zim” and director of this music video of theirs. Shame on me!

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Posted on July 20, 2012, in Music, The Hang of Music and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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