Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Atherton - No Threat

It all boiled down to this.  I needed to do something different.  The fact of the matter was that I could no longer compete with what my coworkers routinely accomplished.  Regular reviews just weren’t going to cut it anymore.  I needed to do something that would draw more attention to the artists I was covering.  If possible, at the same time I’d like to be entertaining whatever audience I managed to eke out of the World Wide Web as well.  Eureka!  I’ll write little stories inspired by the musicians I’m reviewing!  That could work!  Wasting no time I powered up my computer and opened the word processor.

After typing out the first two sentences of the introductory paragraph my phone began to ring.  Not being much of a socialite it’s not often that I receive calls, so I hurried over and picked up the handset.

“Hello.  Is this Mr. Penfold?”
“Why yes.  This is Mr. Penfold speaking.  How can I help you?”
“Mr. Penfold, this is Jake Woodstein.  I’m a reporter with The Day’s Gazette.  I was wondering if you would care to comment about the troubling reports surrounding your work?”
“Troubling reports?  What troubling reports?”
“Mr. Penfold, we have a reliable source who has informed The Day’s Gazette that what you’re writing represents the single biggest threat to the sanctity of music reviews in the history of the written word.”
“My work?  A threat?  You’re kidding right?”
“I’m afraid not Mr. Penfold.”
“But everything I’ve written so far has been formulaic.”
“Your previous work is not the issue here Mr. Penfold.  What our source is referring to is what you’re currently writing.”
“That’s impossible!  I just started to write my new…oh I get it.  This is a joke right?   Ha, ha, ha.”
“No Mr. Penfold.  I assure you that this is not a joke.”
“Oh okay.  Wink wink, nudge nudge.  Listen I don’t know if this is you Eric, or you Willy, but I congratulate you on disguising your voice so well.  You definitely had me going there for a minute.”
“Have it your way Mr. Penfold.  Can I assume that you’re declining to comment for our story?”
“No Mr. um, what was your name again?  Woodstein!  That’s it!  No Mr. Woodstein, I will not be responding to the ridiculous claim that my work is some kind of grave threat to the institution of music reviewing.  And if this is Eric, be sure to ask your girlfriend to return my Tupperware.  I need the large container for some snacks I’m bringing to a get together this weekend.  Thanks.”

I hung up the receiver wondering about the preposterously fake reporter name used by the mystery caller.  Woodstein?  Seriously?  I bet he resorted to combining the only two famous reporters’ names he knew off the top of his head; Woodward and Bernstein.  Laughable.  Positively laughable!  Putting the amusing call out of my mind I went back to my computer and began working anew.

Around seven o’ clock the next morning I poured myself a glass of orange juice, opened my front door, and picked up the newly delivered newspaper.  When I read the front page headline I violently spit out the juice in my mouth!  I couldn’t believe what I was reading!  ‘Penfold of The Ripple Effect Laughs as he Sets Fire to The World of Music Reviewing’.  What?!?! 

Two nights later I spoke out on an international news program.  “Ladies and gentlemen.  My fellow music enthusiasts.  My name is Penfold, and I am not a threat.  I’m going to repeat myself so that I am one hundred percent, crystal clear.  I AM NOT A THREAT!”

Waveriders I fully understand that we all have different ways of figuring out whether or not we like a certain artist’s music.  We all listen to music with different expectations, and for different reasons.  Before we embrace an artist, they have to meet certain expectations.  Personally, I believe I’m hardest to please when it comes to new hip-hop music.  It’s just the way I’m wired.  So when an album like No Threat from Canadian emcee Atherton invades my eardrums and enforces it’s will upon my listening habits, you’d better believe you waveriders are going to hear about it!

Events began innocently enough.  My boss, Racer X, forwarded an email to me requesting that I take a listen to this hip-hop artist named Atherton.  I followed the provided link to his bandcamp page.  The first good indicator was the album art.  The album cover looks like a weathered circus poster of yore with a hand drawn, roaring lion front and center.  Very cool.  I hit the play button and began listening to the first track, “Kid On The Corner”.  The song unfolded behind a subtle introduction featuring intriguing narration and a couple of interesting samples.  Musically it was downright enchanting with a warm bass line, natural sounding drums, atmospheric synths, and the occasional splash of horns. When Atherton started spitting lyrics I was quickly struck by how much I liked the patterns behind his wordplay.  His lyrical flow reminded me of two other emcees that I listen to, yet his technique was very distinctive.  I was impressed to say the least, and I eagerly devoured the rest of the album.

Ready for an admission waveriders?  The first time I listen to a hip-hop artist I’m not really focused on the lyrics.  Of course I’m paying enough attention to know whether or not something horrible or offensive is uttered, but on my first run through I’m mainly concerned with how what’s being spoken is performed.  The second time I listen to a hip-hop album is when I really pay attention to the messages being conveyed by the emcee, and Atherton exceeded all of my expectations.  Do you know what I don’t like?  I don’t like lazy rappers who regurgitate unoriginal thoughts and ideas.  What do I like you ask?  I like artists who come at the listener with honest expression which addresses interesting topics and allows a real window into their thoughts.  Atherton is definitely one such fellow.  Here’s a quick example from the beginning of the title track “No Threat”.  These lyrics essentially outline the song.

Q-Tip told me Joni Mitchell never lies / so I really can't listen to her music / I just can't trust a human who is that honest / I need fiction if I'm to get through it

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the need for less than total honesty in life expressed quite so succinctly.  The first full lyrical verse from the song goes on to more fully flesh out this idea.

I tamed that lion for all to see / They clapped and cheered "Oh revere me~!" / "What courage!" they'd say on their feet all applauding / But behind the scenes the beast had false teeth / Hip dysplasia, and two bum knees / A tad bit more fierce than the house cat breed / The gig was too sweet to give up for simple truths / I was three ring circus headlining Babe Ruth / Young men were moved, inspired by my bravery / And young women swooned when I glanced at 'em aimlessly / Place no blame on me for puttin on a show / Taking nothing from nobody no threat – oh / I'll stick with the fiction ride it out 'til the death
Place my head in his jaws and only fear bad breath / Knowing clear in my head it's all a white lie / How could it be wrong when it feels so right?

Awesome!  Simply awesome!  Do you want more?  Of course you do!  All ten songs on No Threat are strong lyrically and musically.  My personal highlights include the title track, his unique take on not desiring a woman in “Hate Her Face”, the need for a positive outlook on life in “Good Gone”, and the examination of existence that is “Paul Simon Songs”.

Waveriders, this No Threat album from Atherton is the real deal.  I wasn’t kidding before when I mentioned that it had enforced it’s will upon my listening habits.  Before I heard this album I was listening to some pretty good stuff.  Now, a little over a week since I first heard No Threat, I have all but forgotten those artists and their music.  I’m perfectly content spinning this album over and over again.  It’s that good!  What are you waiting for my fellow music fanatics?  Buy Atherton’s No Threat today!


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