Our favorite things this week include Alfred Hitchcock, The Gun Club, and Chicago hip-hop.
Wade in the Water(s): Mick Jenkins loves ginger ale and dressing well, but he hates Chief Keef. He also has set a new bar for intelligent, thought-provoking Chicago hip-hop. With metaphors evoking the title of the mixtape—The Water(s)—interlacing the tape, Jenkins forces listeners to ponder his intricate wordplay, delivery, and effect rappers have on an audience. Floating lines that champion double cups of water and chalices of ginger ale instead of double cups of lean and chalices of Patron subtly clear a listener’s ears of the poison that Jenkins says is everywhere, especially the news and media. Many hip-hop heads are claiming Jenkins work is an instant classic, and after one listen of the Alabama turned Chiacgo rapper’s masterpiece, I could see why. (Justin Picard)
For the Love of Jeffrey Lee: New Orleanian Benjamin Booker (no relation to James) is earning his buzz these days, and one of the influences he credits is The Gun Club. Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s band went through a number of changes, but the operative reference for Booker is the band’s 1981 debut, The Fire of Love. It has been recently reissued by Superior Viaduct along with The Flesheaters’ debut A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die, and the takeaway is clear. Pierce’s band reimagined the blues for post-punk days, with Ward Dotson’s guitar ripping through deserted city streets, and Pierce’s crossroads were found in an abandoned part of the city among desolate warehouses where bargains with the devil weren’t the only deals that went down.
Pierce’s imagination went to the obvious transgressions—“Sex Beat,” “She’s Like Heroin to Me,” “Ghost on the Highway”—and his blues were rooted in his life, not a sound. He didn’t go for a hint of soul, instead treating each song as an emotional reality and plugged into that. When he shrieked “Preach blues!” before the guitar break in the band’s cover of Robert Johnson’s “Preaching the Blues,” he did so as if he really did have a hellhound on his trail. Yes, that’s literal, that’s part of what made it great rock ’n’ roll.
Pierce died in 1996 at age 37 from a brain hemorrhage after years of substance abuse, and the late singer’s leftover, unreleased songs are still being excavated, with friends and fans covering them as part of The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project. The recently released Axels and Sockets is the third volume. (Alex Rawls)
Hitchcock in Conversation: Even for those who may not be fans of older films, it’s hard to deny the influence that Alfred Hitchcock has had on the art of filmmaking. He pioneered many techniques that are still studied and used today, but his work is only half of what makes him really interesting. After all, Hitchcock is the quintessential sarcastic, grumpy old British man. In 1962, iconic French filmmaker Francois Truffaut began interviewing Hitchcock for a book of his own, but what resulted as well is approximately 12 hours of recorded conversation between Truffaut and Hitchcock. It’s a little hard to get into at first because the two men require a translator and this slows down and confuses the process at times. Still, Hitchcock is a wealth of knowledge and stories, and getting to listen to raw audio of one of cinema’s greats is pretty priceless.