Got It Made
By: Eric G.
Apparently, tooting your own horn runs in the Spencer family. Muffin, Jon's sister, yells out the name of her band no less than a bazillion times on her band Brassy's debut album, Got It Made. She moved to England presumably to escape the looming shadow of her brother's underground star here in America. Little did anyone know that she was planning her own attack on the music world in the form of a retro-new-wave-punk-rap act. Brassy is a quartet comprised of distorted vocals, guitar, bass, and, yep, one DJ, who handles both drums and scratches. I thought I was going to have to skewer this album after my initial listen, but, oh, how wrong I was.
At first it was hard deciding whether I kept listening out of morbid curiosity or simply because I enjoyed it. I was unprepared for what besieged my ears. I still can't believe it's taken this long for a band to capitalize on a new wave/rap fusion. I must admit the description in the bio didn't exactly fire me up with excitement: "Brassy are Elastica sharing a sloppy wet kiss with the Beasties." I know. I thought the same thing when I read that. It sounds like it would be such a piece of shit, but that's a pretty accurate description.
The band mixes angular post-punk riffs with booming bass, sassy, sarcastic rhymes and furious scratching. Those elements look absolutely absurd on paper, but you have to hear it to believe it. On "No Competition" the beats are fast and the bass is low, and the vocals, while distorted in Ill Communication fashion, are cocky and catchy. Muffin Spencer's got her brother's brazen attitude and egomaniacal confidence, but it doesn't come across hollowly like "Blues Explosion!" grumbled through a microphone would in 2001.
Spencer snarls her way through "Parkside": "I'm all that/oh yeah/I got style/to spare." The guitar certainly recalls the simple rock arrangements of early Beastie Boy songs but avoids the stubborn idiotic stomp that plagued much early 1980's rap. "Work It Out" is totally infectious and mixes the sass of new wave acts like The Waitresses with the wiry riffage that Elastica nicked so freely from bands like The Stranglers. The assault is incessant. This band struts and shows its ass on every song, and you can't help lapping it up. Spencer has a commanding presence, and her osmosis of countless styles just oozes into every song.
It's so true- if Elastica had returned from obscurity with an album like this it would have taken England by storm (but, alas, it dropped The Menace on us instead). "You Got It" is a razor-sharp punk pogo laced with all of Brassy's tricks. The Miami bass bits blow by so fast it's hard to discern them and the scratching only raises the level of affection. From the shout-along backing vocals to the start/stop energy, this song is bound to slay live. "Who Stole The Show" throws late 70's funk into the mix. Spencer's bratty delivery works so well in call and response form, and the ape-simple beats recall Run DMC in its prime.
Every single song delivers the goods, and the album just snowballs into an action-packed onslaught of ace tunes. "Nervous" is straightforward punk, clocking in at less than two minutes, and Spencer seems just as comfortable at the helm of an all-out rocker as she does snotty rap. "Good Times" showcases her vocal abilities, which, heretofore, seemed less than musical, but she slaughters that assumption with ease. The song is chock full of hooks and the riff is reminiscent of vintage new wave pop at its finest.
This album defies categorization. It is rife with cliché. It's too long (seventeen songs), but it also seamlessly splices more genres of music than most people can name. And, most importantly, it rocks with all the brashness and contempt that any young, start-up band of punks should have.