We Search The Internet For Pampered Divas, Eyeball-Frying MCs, And Metal That Blurs The Race And Gender Divide

xhuxk | September 5, 2008 10:00 am

Each week, dozens of songs and albums from up-and-coming (or just plain unknown) bands debut on the world’s music charts. Some of these bands will never be heard from again; some may become the next little thing. That’s why we have Chuck Eddy exploring the world beyond the Billboard 200, where he’ll look for diamonds in the MySpace rough. This week, his roster of up-and-comers includes hip-hop of the hillbilly and horror persuasions, old-school punks, fresh-faced Warped Tour types, and yet another act that Jack Johnson needs to apologize for.

LAGWAGON Okay, first off, just shut up and admit it: I Think My Older Brother Used To Listen To Lagwagon is a funny title. Though whether the EP’s No. 39 debut on Heatseekers last week indicates that a new generation of younger siblings is now catching onto these Santa Barbara pop-punk lifers has yet to be determined–especially since the record has already dropped off said chart. Lagwagon boast several previous albums, the oldest dating back to 1992, all on Fat Wreck Chords. (Other amusing titles: Double Plaidinum, Let’s Talk About Feelings, Let’s Talk About Leftovers.) Their music, like lots of other music released on their record label, is silly, nerd-voiced hopscotch-beat twiddle of the sub-Green Day variety; they claim a metal influence, as well, which is halfway audible in their guitars if you really listen hard for it. The singer jumps rope on stage sometimes.

HAYSTAK I think your older brother used to listen to Haystak, too, and guess what? He’s still around! And I do mean round. The heavyweight hillbilly hip-hopper from Blastville, Tenn., has a new album called Hard 2 Love, and it hits the Heatseekers chart at No. 13 this week. His MySpace page indicates that he wears glasses now, and has seemingly had some sort of stresses in his personal life, which he raps about with utmost sincerity in his new album’s title track. Then in the slow-riding driveby “B.O.S.S.,” he asserts that “I’m a businessman, get out my business van, and we gon’ turn your neighborhood into Pakistan.” Also, you can order several different T-shirts from him, preferably of the XXXL persuasion. Haystak’s MySpace pal Adam–“Hey big Homie we got problems. Your shit is too hot. I was late for work because you had me stuck in front of the stereo mesmerized by the lyrics. Now you need to calm down because if I get fired I cant get one of them shirts. Be good bro.”–sure plans to, so why not you?

ESHAM Esham is still around, too, and he’s selling even more T-shirts on his MySpace page than Haystak! The bald Detroit horror-rapper or acid-rapper or whatever he calls himself these days (basically unknown outside of Murder City, but supposedly a major inspiration for both Eminem and Insane Clown Posse) squeezes into the Heatseekers chart at No. 50 this week with his umpteenth album Sacrificial Lambz; his page also plugs a recent EP called, cleverly, Lamb Chopz, and it has French-fried eyeballs swimming in a pool of blood on its cover. (The album itself, strangely enough, only has a frolicsome herd of baby sheep.) All his favorite MySpace friends appear to be young women with hardly any clothes on.

ANARBOR I’m sure Esham would agree that if you’re gonna call your band Anarbor, you really should at least come from Michigan, if not A2 itself. But nope, these four guys plus girl bassist turn out to be “recent high school graduates” from Phoenix. Their “The Natural Way” made a mysterious one-week-only appearance on the physically oriented Hot Singles Sales chart at No. 6 last week, even though their MySpace page refers to it as a digital EP available on iTunes. They appear to be very well-behaved, and so do their fans. They signed to Hopeless Records in June, and joined the Warped Tour in August. They sound exactly as dull as you’d suspect they would. But if you check their old MySpace blogs, you’ll find a cute photo from when they were all just 13 years old.

STRAIGHT LINE STITCH Intermittently melodic and rhythmic barf-metal from Knoxville with a woman of color (not to mention extremely long blue dreadlocks) providing “clean” vocals and ugly ones alike; their album When Skies Wash Ashore blipped onto Heatseekers at No. 32 last week, but this week, it’s gone. Alexis Brown is hardly the first black woman to sing loud’n’noisy rock (as anybody with Mother’s Finest or Skunk Anansie platters in his or her collection will surely tell you, for starters, not to mention any records by Santogold’s old band Stiffed; other precedents might be found here.) But skim through comments beneath Straight Line Stitch’s “Remission” video on YouTube, and race and gender are definitely a big part of what people argue about: “this band is proof that metal is not limited 2 race or sex,i mean, im black and i listen to death/black metal……AND I LOVE IT”; “Jada Pinkket Smith in a Band called Wicked Wisdom and SHE IS BLACK, this is not new!”; “Finally a chick who can make up for the shitty image Jadda Pinkett brought on black vocalists.”; “First time i see a girl that can scream like that since Arch enemy. And she also sings in regular voice too.. this could be good!”; “she dont belong in metal , go make an over-rated much music video.”; “All of these female metal bands sound just like this. I’m a female metal vocalist for a band called For The Slaughter, and you know what.. fuck this nu metal crap. This girls just another Otep, another Bloodlined Calligraphy, another In This Moment. Come on.”; “People kill me always bringing up race…..black folks paved the way for rock, and just about every other music genre…She is kick ass as well as the band as a whole.”; “i know im gonna probly get blasted for asking this. But are they Nu-metal or what?”; “I love how whenever people post comments they think their opinion is going to persuade someone to change their mind via youtube. Everybody is a critic these days. And what’s with all the terrible grammar people? Didn’t any of you go to school?”

LADY GAGA Lady GaGa’s album The Fame entered the Canadian album chart at No. 8 last week and this week hangs on just inside our northern neighbors’ top ten. Meanwhile, her song “Just Dance” with Colby O’Donis (and occasionally Akon), which has spent the past few weeks at the peak of the Canadian Hot 100 mountain, is at No. 79 on the Hot 100 and No. 8 on the Hot Dance Airplay chart in the U.S., despite being Medium-NRG dancefloor fluff of no notable distinction beyond her relatively tuneless voice. Lady GaGa’s bio on MySpace reveals that she grew up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, but later experienced a period of “self-discovery” on the Lower East Side which consisted of “dabbling in drugs and the party scene,” yikes! She includes “drag queens in general” among her influences, and appropriately lists her “male equivalents” as “Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Boy George, and John Lennon in wig and fishnets at Studio 54.” And indeed, all indications are that Ms. GaGa–actually named for the 1984 Queen hit “Radio Ga-Ga,” so there goes the joke I was gonna make about her moniker–dresses like a woman, just like some of those men did! In fact, she insists Peggy Bundy is one of her fashion icons. The video to “Just Dance,” sadly, looks more glam-rock than the song sounds. But GaGa is still probably no worse than thousands of other privileged ladies of no discernible talent turned quasi-decadent divas before her.

GEORGE DUKE George Duke used to play with both Frank Zappa and Cannonball Adderly at the same time (though not necessarily in the same room); how many people can say that? His new album is funky, too, sometimes (for instance “Sudan”) almost in an early Funkadelic sort of way. Honest! It enters the Billboard 200 at No. 192, even though it is called Dukey Treats and features on its cover a sinister-smiling George holding up a tiny keyboard made of chocolate. His MySpace page, fortunately, features no off-color dookie jokes.

TEN FEET Laid-back fake-reggae folk-rock swill from Hawaii, even more so (more fake and folk I mean) than Rebel Souljahz; both bands are getting ready to take part in the KWXX-sponsored Ho’olaule’a on Sept. 27 in Downtown Hilo. (Free admission! Live music! Great food & crafts! Sponsored by Kama’aina Motors and Kama’aina Nissan!) So is this a genre now? Do Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz have something to do with it? Their photos are both among Ten Feet’s best MySpace friends, so I’m blaming them. Ten Feet feature five people (do the math!), and their Everyday entered Top World Albums at No 13 last week; this week, it climbs four notches, to No. 9. But Hawaii isn’t in the rest of the “world”; it’s part of the United States, right? Even ask Barack Obama! What’s next, Alaska?