40 Best St. Louis Releases of 2011: Part Four
Part One: The Union Electric, Sweet Tooth, King Kong Magnetics, Warm Jets USA
Part Two: Glass Teeth, Ryan Spearman, the Breaks and Adult Fur
Part Three: Rum Drum Ramblers, Humanoids, Old Lights and Volcanoes
Bo and the Locomotive | On My Way
Make a sound, let it ring. Make a loud, hard, true sound, let it ring, long, long, long. Let it all echo into space that would otherwise be black and silent. Let it echo on and on.
Reverberation has been a part of music since the dawn of H. erectus, whose gigs were mostly in caves. And let us not forget the monks in their cloisters, who anticipated Sam Phillips and his slap-back, who anticipated Phil Spector and his wall of sound, who, it would seem, must have inspired St. Louis band Bo and the Locomotive, and its excellent, reverb-drenched debut album On My Way.
Bathed in delay and reverb, the stacked voices, stark guitar lines, baroque organ parts and bashing percussion could all amount to a post-primitive-rock muck-and-mire session, an over-signified gesture at false grandeur. On My Way works, however, largely because of the concentrated balance of bitterness and ennui in Bo Bulawsky's songwriting, and the way he lingers over his images, sounding sometimes like Stan Ridgway, in a good way, and sometimes just like a young man who seems to have found his voice in the ghosts echoing around him.
Key Track - "Behind Everything" is a colossally angst-ridden warning, a threat of betrayal, to the self and to a lying lover, friend or enemy. Bulawsky shivers and the band shivers along with him, finally building to a beautifully, noisy, desperate finale.
Taking its name from the "inspirational" audiotape autobiography narrated by Eastbound & Down's feckless Kenny Powers, You're Fucking Out, I'm Fucking In may be less confrontational than its title suggests. But the mix tape goes to great lengths to show Rockwell Knuckles' boundless versatility. His prime directive is spewing funny and often dizzying rhymes in his low, almost Stentorian voice that shows the barest hint of Missouri twang, and on a track like "Silly Human," it's easy to marvel at the verbal dexterity, rhythmic precision and old-school soul that merge on the breathless chorus. Knuckles shares a few verses with local rhymesayers Vandalyzm and Tef Poe (not to mention Theresa Payne's crucial contributions), but for the most part this collection shows that he can create a rich, complex world unto himself.
Knuckles uses a range of productions to push his surprisingly agile voice into different contexts. He comes out smooth and smoky on "Play Catch," while the clicky "Every Angle" features his most dancehall-like delivery and a flurry of swooping synthesizer runs. His genre-less approach comes to a glorious climax on the final track, "Natural Born Leader," as arena-rock guitar and organ riffs provide an appropriately grandiose backdrop for the tape's closing mission statement. Many rappers are given to overblown claims and over-the-top production, but as those guitars wail and a choir rises behind him, it's not hard to believe the hype. With an album as varied, challenging, confident and downright fun as You're Fucking Out, Rockwell Knuckles stands tall as St. Louis' most capable and adventurous hip-hop artist.
Homespun: April 21, 2011