Sunday, February 10, 2008

SAGE FRANCIS — HUMAN DEATH DANCE

SAGE FRANCIS — HUMAN DEATH DANCE

When we first heard of Sage Francis, we ate that shit up. This guy was smart, funny, lyrical, he had a great, poetry-slam flow, and worked with some great beats (at least as half of Non-Prophets). I grabbed it all up, laughed at the latter-day Bill Hicks moments and dug into the groove.

Then he came out with Healthy Distrust and suddenly I realized I already had exactly the amount of Sage Francis I needed. But there was nothing actually WRONG with Healthy Distrust. In fact, it's probably better than his other solo albums. But his flow is so practiced and his philosophy is so entrenched and the whole rythym of his thing is so well-established at this point that it's all becoming wall paper to my ears.

And this is a shame, because Human Death Dance might actually be better than Healthy Distrust. It's funny, angry, autobiographical, metaphysical, metaphorical and well-produced (if not neccessarily excitingly produced).

But it also seems a bit mannered. And there really aren't any surprises. Thhere are no metaphors so personal they defy explination. A lot of the word twists and phrase flips seem more glib than insightful. It's all become one-liners replacing art. And, speaking as someone who loves one liners and glib responses, the human condition isn't just ironic distance. It's more than that that separates man from beast, but it's just that that separates Francis from beats. (OH!)

See, there's a place for music to explain the Equal Rights Ammendment, and a place for music to make us feel guilty war and famine, and a place for music to make fun of our obsession with celebrities, or crack wise about gitmo. But, after a while, it just washes over you. It's always been the great weakness of conciousness rap or any art that subsumes all other considerations to the message that the message is undermined by its association with bad art and the art is lessened the more dominant the message.

"Yeah, I agree with the sentiment; but why is it a painting?"

And that's where Francis leaves me these 100 or so tracks later. If you've never listened to him before, by all means, make this your first exposure. It's still timely, moves from strength to strength, it wraps itself up in contradiction after contradiction, it's self-aware and self-depricating while trying really hard to tear down the people who demanded that wall be torn down.

But, for me, it may be just a little too self-aware. A little too self-deprecating. And i agree with the sentiments, but why are they songs? Shouldn't there be a little more bump n grind? Can't we have contradictory impulses we indulge rather than write song after song about just how we have contradictory impulses? Can't we have a little more catharsis and a little less clever? Can't we be smart and sexy?

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