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We’re too young to know anything

An interesting philosophical point that seems to get raised pretty often is that of reviewer qualifications. There’s a dude over at ProgressiveEars who seems to dislike this site because our reviewers are young and relatively new to prog (i.e., they haven’t been listening to it since the 1970s heyday). While I’m sure those who have been fans since the 70s may be able to offer more in the way of comparison and personal experience and the like, I think there’s an advantage to being a younger reviewer as well. We have a different perspective on prog, one that may well be more in tune with the current cultural context. I know there are exceptions - there are plenty of older fans that are perfectly able to contextualize prog in the modern world - but as a whole younger fans are less likely to get stuck in a rut of cultural irrelevance. Whether or not this is reflected in reviews or review choice is a different matter, of course, but I think the idea that one has to be a grizzled veteran of prog in order to have valuable opinions about it is bunk.

This segues nicely into my most recent acquisition, which is decidedly non-prog, but which I’d like to talk about a bit. It’s the newest album produced by Dan “the Automator” Nakamura - Lovage: Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By. No one can ever fault this guy for resting on his laurels: every single album I have of his is, stylistically, entirely different from the others. Well, except maybe Dr. Octagonecologyst is somewhat similar to A Much Better Tomorrow, but that’s because they were produced in the same period of time. Deltron 3030 is different from those, So… How’s Your Girl is totally different, and then of course there’s the Gorillaz project. And now there’s Lovage.

This is a hip-hop album, but not a rap album. There’s nary a rap to be found, but Nakamura’s beats are as hip-hop as ever, and there’s quite a bit of scratching by Deltron 3030 alumnus Kid Koala - in fact, “Everyone Has a Summer” sounds exactly like what his solo album Carpal Tunnel Syndrome would have sounded like with a producer (in my opinion, what it should have sounded like). Instead of MCs, what we get is Mike Patton (yes, that Mike Patton) and Jennifer Charles singing. I was first exposed to Charles’ voice on DJ Logic’s “Spider Dance”, and loved it - sensual and evocative. Her voice fits perfectly here, and the juxtaposition with Patton’s low growl is a delight.

The Onion calls this album “a cheeky detour into foppish pop, tongue-in-cheek trip-hop, and conceptual silliness”. There’s a focus on all things romantic and sexual, though it’s all a bit twisted. My favorites are “Book of the Month”, which masterfully contrasts the two vocalists over Nakamura’s beat and accompanying mournful cello loop, and “Sex (I’m A)”, a cover of the Berlin song. The latter is simply stunning - I wouldn’t have thought even Dan the Automator could have gotten anything good out of that song, but with the addition of a simple guitar part, a sultry beat, and the over-the-top-sexy voices of Patton and Charles (complete with strategically placed sighs and gasps), he’s somehow created a darkly sensual masterpiece.

Lovage has its weak points; some of the songs strike me as differentiated from pedestrian pop only by the Automator’s beats. But its high points are as good as anything Nakamura has put out so far.

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