Thursday, 19 November 2015

Dr. Dre - Compton (2015)

I have this theory which I've been developing over the last couple of years; well, not so much a theory as a classification, and one which I'm trying hard to convince myself is completely different to representatives of my father's generation sniffily insisting that the Sex Pistols weren't music. The theory is that at some point during the last decade, or maybe a little before, music bifurcated into two distinct families with very little in common beyond mutual transmission by means of sound waves, the families being that which we already understand as encompassed by the term music, and the new thing which I'll call post-music; and yes I am aware how closely this resembles those Dizzy Rasclaats you listen to, that's just noise.

Music, as we already understand it is, for the sake of argument, immersive - we go to the gig or we sit listening to the record and reading the cover as it plays. These are broad generalisations, but the core point is that the individual engages fairly directly with whatever they are listening to, at least some of the time, regardless of what it sounds like or what its constituent elements may be. Post-music is generally anything released since about 1995 which makes you feel either old, or like grabbing the monosyllabic little fuckers responsible by the scruff of their necks and rubbing their noses in it so they know not to do it again. Post-music is often easily identified by a ton of autotune, arcade game sounds, a certain ravey quality synonymous with music which could only have been composed by moving waveforms around on a screen, a general sentiment amounting to awesome, dude, and compositions equating to weird flavours beloved of small children which don't actually occur anywhere in nature, bubble-gum ice cream and so on. There's also a certain inability to distinguish quality from shite leading to disastrous results when combined with a weird view of nostalgia as positive in and of itself, hence fifteen-year old laptop prodigies synthesising Elton John or the dynamic of the Electric Light Orchestra.

The thing is, to be fair, post-music isn't really about the music so much as a projected memeplex of which the music is just one minor component. Post-music is for playing on your phone through a shitty speaker, not so much for your direct enjoyment as for the pleasure you may take from visibly associating yourself with the music as others pass by; in other words it may as well be a t-shirt with an awesome logo. The music is unimportant outside what it says about you to others. Similarly, the music will, without exception, have a video accompaniment, and the video accompaniment and that which it communicates will be at least as important as the song, and often more so.

Post-music artists include, I would suggest, LMFAO, Lady Gaga whoever shat out that Cha Cha Slide shit, We Are Young by Fun, and about a million others I can't bear to think about. It isn't that it's all a big pile of useless shite, but that it isn't music by terms I recognise even if music is an element; and this is why anything involving autotune is nearly always bollocks.

Okay, maybe not always, but I'll come back to that.

I've lost track of what happened to Detox, the long-awaited and never to arrive follow up to Dre's 2001 album. I gather a load of the tracks have turned up here and there but the man himself was never really happy with it and so called it a day and just popped this one out on the spur of the moment, almost certainly inspired by all that was stirred up during the making of the film Straight Outta Compton, at least if the intensely reflective lyrical content is anything to go by. It's paid off too, in so much as this sounds like a record which someone enjoyed making, or at least enjoyed making presumably more than he enjoyed wittling away at Detox for the last fifteen years.

Most surprising I suppose is that it doesn't sound anything like the Dre with which we are familiar, or at least it doesn't until the initial shock passes and you notice it's actually not a million sonic miles away from some of the Eminem records he's produced in recent years. I suppose the surprise comes from my assuming those records sounded as they did because of Eminem rather than his producer. Then again, Dr. Dre's success is probably in the dramatic evolution of his sound, and it's a tough call thinking of anyone else in the music business who has endured so well, advanced so much, and yet remained pretty much true to himself. I mean The Chronic was twenty-three years ago. Can you believe that?

Compton is Dre doing what I've come to regard as post-music, and showing that actually you can pull that shit off if you just make the effort. It's not only the autotune, but the whole dynamic, arcade blips and subsonic bass, crunk snare, and For the Love of Money which could almost be Three-6-Mafia; but somehow it's done with a certain light touch which elevates it way above mere ringtone status, and then the more you listen, the more you notice the old school touches, and just how soulful this record is; and he's made Snoop sound amazing again, and Cold 187um and Xzibit are back; and even the Game and he's not just reading out a list of his fave albums for once...

Compton is an incredible album. In case anyone ever doubted it, the guy is a genius, not least for snatching that rinky-dink ringtone crap back from the kids and making it work as something real.

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