Sunday, September 25, 2005

Cage – Hell’s Winter (sucks)

More than ever, Cage is sounding like a second rate, underground answer to Eminem. Nearly 10 years ago, after debuting with Pete Nice he was dropping dope, indie approved 12’’ such as Agent Orange/Radiohead on Fondle Em that still stand up as awesome music to this day. His career probably suffered by the unusually long wait for his debut Movies for the Blind but on a whole it worked, a post-apocalyptic whiteboy rap album that while limited in appeal, was big on fan satisfaction, earning him a top spot in indie rap hierarchy. While side projects like Nighthawks and the Weatherproof EP were pretty useless, the promises of a Weathermen album and the absolute insanity of the Leak Bros’ PCP inspired psychosis on wax had his fans heavily anticipating his new album.

Well umm…sorry guys it doesn’t work.

Hell’s Winter has been described by Cage as an audio diary of his sobering and growing up. What I’d describe it as is the music of an insecure dry drunk getting overly emo over un-funky music. He’s on a new label, got new (indie) clothes, lost weight, is moving his life in a better direction but just released a boring, pretentious album that’s currently being overrated as all hell by internet shmucks who’ll forget it in 6 months. Cage’s first mistake is thinking that whining about kicking his habits for a whole album is a good idea. It gets old fast as he goes over his drug addiction, childhood abuse and lost love over the course of 14 songs. The thing Cage might not realize is that he referenced all of that before his epiphany only in funnier, more sarcastic ways that weren’t nearly as overbearing as his bitching on this record. The low point is undoubtedly Scenester described on the intro as the diary of one specific girl’s life. Grow some balls man, you sound like My Chemical romance except you can’t sing. Throughout the albums, remnants of the old Cage float around but its too little too late for anyone who liked his particular brand of Hiphop music: the Weathermen collabo Left it to us, is okay as is the album ending Hell’s Winter but that’s hardly enough to save the album. A couple of songs are saved by the production, but when 12/14 are hindered by it, that’s a terrible tradeoff.

The production on Hell’s Winter is fundamental proof that Def Jux’s shtick has become as played out as Wu-Tang strings in the late 90’s. The beats from El-P, Camu Tao and Pawl are rigid and unsure if they want to be “soundscapes”, “songs”, “tracks” or “beats”, thus finding an uncomfortable middle ground between all of those. If you were to strip Hiphop music of all funk (read black) influence you’d get something like this. Of course, all is forgiven if the results are dope (see Sage Francis’ last album) but in this case it’s just awkward and played out as El Producto once again proves that he blew his load on Cannibal Ox and Fantastic Damage. Even the usually reliable Blockhead’s contributions falter, lacking decent drums and just kind of floating around, but I’d assume that’s due to the project’s general direction so I won’t blame him directly. DJ Shadow meanwhile provides a welcome respite to the mediocrity, channeling EL-P’s 02 style on Grand old Party Crash which instantly reminds the listener of classic Cage material with its heavy aggressive future-funk vibe and anarchist anti-political lyrics. Proof that when the music is good and he’s got something interesting to rap about Cage is still interesting, but also proof at how ill conceived this album was. The other saving grace is RJD2’s Shoot Frank which provides a genuinely great beat for guest singer Darryl Palumbo to do his thing over. Cage’s contributions meanwhile are expendable, but not so bad as to ruin a good thing.

With vanilla beats by El-P, Camu, Blockhead and Pawl and whiny 3rd generation 2pac emotional poetry from Cage this album offers little of interest to those who enjoy actual Hiphop music. Obviously that’s not who Cage is aiming for on this one, calling his former Hiphop attire “oversized children’s clothes” and exhibiting the black and white world view of a former addict. Yet this isn’t actually that great by indie terms either, as the music isn’t nearly as visceral as the Arcade Fire or other bands who manage to translate what Cage is trying to more effectively. Underground rap fans will continue the false worship another few months and then move on and hopefully Cage slowly realizes that he’s been a real dick for the past year and decides to make decent music again. Otherwise it’s back to being Eminem for the kids who’re too cool to like Eminem. And what a ironic epilogue THAT would be for his career.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on, you blast a guy for being honest (for once). Maybe if you lived more life than a suburban know it all, you might know coming back from having a fucked up life is a accomplishment all it's own. Relax and enjoy seeing a rebirth. You know the nice thing ..... even your bad review will get people to listen and make up their own minds

11:52 PM  

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