Sunday, February 4, 2018

Tune-Yards - I can feel you creep into my private life Review

It's hard to ignore just how prevalent the pressing political climate has become in Indie music now-a-days. Worse yet, it's hard to ignore the associative Alternative Dance that's sparked up in retaliation of said political outcry. From Everything Now to American Dream, Humanz to Plunge, artists are finding an escape, or a solution, in music that intends to unite through rhythm. Success has been shaky at best. How does Tune-Yards' 2018 LP I can feel you creep into my private life fit into all this then? Quite comfortably, and that's entirely due to Merrill Garbus' wherewithal at creating down-to-earth, but still politically-charged Art Pop throughout her career. This avenue that dozens are now treading down is somewhere she's set up shop since 2011's ambitious and confrontational w h o k i l l. Looking back, various topics covered on that LP act as prophecy to what we're experiencing ten-fold now-a-days. 'Gangsta' and white society's tendency to culturally appropriate black culture, 'Powa' and the fighter-as-feminist, 'Doorstep' and unaccounted for police brutality, being just some examples. Whereas 2014's Nikki Nack lost sight of Tune-Yards' ultimate goal, placing left-wing politics second, I can feel you creep aims to re-examine just where we as a society went astray.

Unfortunately, I must first comment on the controversy Tune-Yards has received for this LP, and namely the explosive, Knife-inspired banger 'Colonizer.' The reaction to Garbus' apologetic tone over the actions of her race has caused quite the harsh reaction. Not a surprise given our instant-outrage society, but one that presents a curious case study on how opinion pieces have changed in such short time. Apart from feigning ignorance that Garbus has never spoken on such topics before ('Gangsta'), nothing in 'Colonizer' would draw such offense as 'Doorstep's' introductory line "policemen shot my baby as he crossed over my doorstep." Yet, in 2011, not a peep. Many today take up umbrage with Garbus, a middle-class white woman from Connecticut, for speaking out about the ills and woes of faces familiar to hers. As if minorities are the only ones allowed to chastise naive racists who lack self-awareness. As if she's not allowed to think critically, and be mindful of the imbalance her privileged position offers her.

Ironically, Garbus isn't as leftist as 'Colonizer' lends itself to being. On tracks like 'Hammer' and 'Private Life,' I recall one of the best sketches in SNL's recent history; Black Jeopardy with Tom Hanks as far-right redneck. For those unaware, the sketch, which found contestants at racial, cultural, and political odds, actually inverted expectations and proved that we're not so different after all. On these two tracks, Garbus fears for the invasive measures government has taken in personal surveillance, something that's evident through the album's title. It's also something far-left and far-right are, generally, in agreement over. There's also the claustrophobically-beautiful 'Heart Attack,' a track that showcases paranoia in post-Trump America on both sides of the aisle (and one that finds a reassuring solution in 'ABC 123'). Compromise is possible if an open mind and an open heart are accessible. Admittedly so, Tune-Yards also criticizes republican ideology in 'Coast To Coast' and screams for gender inequality on the closer 'Free,' so Garbus may not be the best mediator between two sides; just an example that each extreme isn't so far apart.

Unfortunately, I can feel you creep may be Tune-Yards' weakest effort, musically, to date. Like the Alternative Dance albums springing up around them, Tune-Yards takes the low road and merges the synth-heavy bombast of Nikki Nack with the political undertaking of w h o k i l l. What sounds like a pro for fans, and it potentially will be, won't reel many new listeners in thanks to the abundance of similarly-sounding music around it. A handful of songs, like 'Honesty' and lead single 'Look At Your Hands,' move with dance-happy vengeance, leaning more to the one-note Pop of today than her carefully-curated style. Thankfully, there are sprinkles of that past with the frenetic instrumentation of 'Private Life,' taken straight out of the w h o k i l l book of Freak Folk, and the hypnotic cadence of 'Heart Attack,' an example of Nikki Nack's best staples. Beyond these moments, and the audacious vocoder work on 'Free' (which is excellent), there isn't many artistic achievements on I can feel you creep. Like St. Vincent on MASSEDUCTION, Tune-Yards places more emphasize on prompt catchiness than deep-rooted artistry. That being said, what Tune-Yards was missing returns here, with Garbus' return to argumentative discussion. It may not be what 2018 is missing though.


No comments:

Post a Comment