Jesse Jarnow

in a cold-ass fashion & crushed bones

“In A Cold-Ass Fashion” – Beck
from Jabberjaw: Good to the Last Drop (1994)
released by Mammoth Records (buy)

“Crushed Bones” – Why?
from Elephant Eyelash (2005)
released by Anticon (buy)

(both files expire on December 15th)
In honor of my friend Joey and coming across Bulworth on my chum’s television-box (I’d never seen it) and having already planned to post a Why? track and getting thrown “In A Cold-Ass Fashion” on the ol’ shuffle shuffle this evening… well, what reasons could I have for not celebrating a decade of dorky white boyz rapping?

I’d forgotten about “In A Cold-Ass Fashion,” a Mellow Gold-era b-side from some random compilation called Jabberjaw: Good to the Last Drop. In some ways, this is quintessential mid-’90s Beck: total absurdity (“smoke a pack of whiskey with Jesus Christ / I’ve got options / I’ve got cop shows / I get nauseous and the sweat is day-glo”), but the beats and the bassline that comes in at around the 2:10 mark and the robot voice at the end and the way the banjo breakdown drops in all kind of feel like a throw-forward to me — a prototype for the dancefloor sexx music from Midnite Vultures and Guero. And, besides, it’s where Beck declares himself the original gluesniffa. Take that, ya Houston robotrippers!

Elephant Eyelash by Why? — a rapper from the Anticon collective (2) — is easily one of my top 10 faves from this year. When I first heard Why?’s work with cLOUDDEAD, for some reason, little bits of his melodies reminded of some Beck’s acoustic tunes, not his rap stuff at all. There’s a real playfulness in the way the song is organized, which I love. As it progresses and builds from section to section, these modular scenes surface (“the rain comes down in late July” is particularly vivid), each defined by its own combination of rhyme, melodic turn, and arrangement. On one hand, “Crused Bones” not a song you can sit down and play with an acoustic guitar, but it’s definitely a song you could play with a band (3), though — as near as I can tell — the type of song that almost nobody would actually think to play with a band. Nearly all of Elephant Eyelash blows my domepiece as such.

(1) Holy shit, the redesign of beck.com is annoying. They used to have a great, functional, searchable discography. Now, the site’s all purdy & shit, with exclusive web tunes (cool, I guess), but — dammit — all I want is information.

(2) Man, there’s a lotta exploring to be done with these guys.

(3) Still kicking myself for skipping out when Why? & his comrades descended on Brooklyn a few months back.

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