Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Album Review: PPT-- Denglish

Wow. After listening to PPT's Denglish several times throughout the past 48 hours, it's still a bit difficult to understand exactly what the group has set out to do here, and it's even harder to comprehend just what this record is supposed to be. Strange artistic choices are one thing, but with PPT, it's tough to know where to begin sometimes.

One adjective that comes to mind is "ambitious." On this, their second full length, PPT brings an array of interesting, if not downright peculiar influences to the table, utilizing elements of classic funk, 80's synthpop, R&B, soul, Britpop ,D.A.I.S.Y., and contemporary backpack to create a relatively unique record full of stylistic surprises reminiscent of the eclecticism found on De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising.

On paper, this is a rock critics' wet dream, of course: a hip hop party record that's full of overt nods to tasteful rock while remaining completely void of the "commercial" hip hop bling aesthetic that critics love to so smugly dismiss as "low brow." And at certain points throughout the album's 17 tracks, the formula works rather well, translating into some uniquely danceable and funky material that stacks up with many of PPT's more celebrated "alternative" rap contemporaries. But unfortunately, a permeating air of goofiness coupled with multiple instances of ill advised performances and flawed execution hold the record back as a whole, rendering Denglish a bit too flimsy to match PPT's apparent ambition.

Things get started out well enough with "Masterbook," a banging, uptempo party track with a bouncing synth bassline and a string loop backing that almost perfectly compliments some of the most competently delivered rhymes on the record. Here, PPT demonstrates its ability to create a quality, relatively straight forward hip hop single worthy of praise, not unlike something Dilated Peoples or some other funk friendly west coast unit might churn out if they worked with a more commercially oriented and glossy producer.

Two tracks later, "Who's That Girl" emerges as the most memorable moment on the record, with a nod to mid 80's synth R&B/electro that clearly takes inspiration from groups like Gap Band, Kool and the Gang, and various New Edition solo offshoots (not to mention contemporaries like Gnarls Barkley or even the instrumentals of Sebastian Tellier). Immediately following is "Jubilee," another uptempo snyth funk jam that pulls from Parliament, early Prince and some of Andre 3000's better moments on The Love Below, resulting in a track that savvy Dallas DJs will certainly be able to bust out to get discerning asses moving at just about any point in the evening. Elsewhere, "Daydream" explores funk mixed with 90's britpop to surprisingly pleasing results, including a winking nod to Slick Rick's "Children's Story."

Many of these strong moments seem to come as a result of the excellent production work of PPT's Picnic, who should really be commended for the diversity and overall quality of his tracks. The producer handles everything from new romantic synth pop to west coast cool jazz to funk to psyche with a sense of ease, warmth and instinct that you'll certainly be hard pressed to find at most hip hop studios in Dallas. Truly, it is his material that ties the record together.

Despite these strengths, however, the record takes a most unfortunate turn when the English accents make their first appearance. Yes, you read that correctly. In case you couldn't already tell from the album artwork pictured above, PPT has fixated on sort of an English psychedelic spirit on Denglish, and while it is certainly a daring choice, it is a largely unsuccessful one. Although bits and pieces of these fake English accents appear on almost every track, and sometimes do no real harm other than being awkward, there are a few spots where the sheer goofiness of the endeavor becomes completely distracting, rendering the songs impotent at best and downright laughable at worst. "Save it for Another Day" is probably the worst offender, registering a fake cockney accent in the lead vocal performance that is on par with the chimney sweep from Mary Poppins. This comical approach to Anglophilia is obviously meant to be funny, as well as to provide some sort of loose narrative or concept for the record, but overkill sets in pretty quickly, and the mostly unfunny lyrics about tea and crumpets become awkward to the point of nearly ruining the record. And lets face it, when Black Tie Dynasty's Cory Watson provides you with by far the least annoying approximation of a geezer (on the Pet Shop Boysesque "Love Crimes"), you might want to rethink your shtick.

Denglish obviously contains a respectable number of solid tracks that will likely earn PPT some acclaim, and rightly so. And furthermore, the group's willingness to try such a unique and unpredictable combination of sounds is admirable. However, the record's 17 tracks become tiring after a while, and given that at least a handful of these songs actually drag the record down quite a bit with unnecessary silliness, something shorter would have been much more suitable as a showcase of PPT's talents. Musical ambition is a great thing, and being goofy is pretty o.k. too, but when those two pursuits are taken to the point of getting in the way of what you're best at, it might be time to direct your ambition elsewhere.

(2.5 out of 5)

47 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

agreed.

8:44 AM  
Anonymous Mr. BBC said...

I heard the album. The thing is, hip hop has become a vacuum where artists just don't take chances anymore. If you do, you risk being ostracized by the rap community, which PPT most definitely is. These guys don't seem to give a fuck. They're trying to push the envelope a bit and made a bunch of joke tracks and annoying Monty Pythonisms. They're a bunch of art-school film students that wrote the Mavericks theme song, and they probably laugh their asses off knowing there's stadium full of people singing along. If you academically critique the album in the way that Pitchfork might analyze "seminal works" like OK Computer or Arcade Fire's Funeral, then you're obviously part of the joke. I think the culture that breeds "popular music scholars" is exactly what PPT is satirizing here.

Irreverence is something that has always drawn me to an artist.

9:33 AM  
Anonymous stonedranger said...

whether its a joke or not, it doesn't mean that the english accent tracks are worth listening to.

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As compared to Best Fwends or any of the House of Tinnitus bands? Come on...

Not that I don't appreciate any of those bands. There's just a difference between "appreciating" and being "worth listening to." I love seeing Zanibar Snails or even Tree Wave for that matter. But as far as listening to it while doing the dishes or commuting or something... probably not.

10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're wrong 10:31 am. I'd rather listen to a Zanzibar Snails record over most of this pop bullshit. But not just local musicians of that kind either. There are plenty of people who like to listen to drone, free jazz, improvisational experiments. What for you to listen to a record that you'll listen to I better go to a studio, write some riffed to fuck songs, and sing over it? Fuck you. That shit is so tired. Listening to improvisational drones, or most experimental music is perfect for doing dishes and commuting. Are you kidding me? Traffic fucking drone, it's noise, dishwashing is noise, our lives are polluted with noise. Zanzibar Snails is a perfect soundtrack to a shitty commute in the DFW. Most people prefer to dilute their lives away from the shitty reality they live in with really cool escapist controlled sound. Fuck that.

10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i dont understand a word you just said

11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

then get off the internet dickcheese. people on the internet don't always write perfectly but it doesn't take a genius to understand what most of them are saying. idiot.

11:11 AM  
Anonymous not a word not even ONE said...

11:03 your an idiot go fuck your mom and shovel shit down her throat that you carved out of yours/her colon you douche bag. You get any of those WORDS you illiterate shit knuckler.

11:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cussing is kewl.

11:46 AM  
Anonymous stonedranger said...

cussing does in fact rule, but I still can't understand a damn thing ANY of you are saying.

12:09 PM  
Anonymous me said...

just offend them if nothing else works. DRONE ON

12:12 PM  
Anonymous ? said...

mmmmm.......eeeeeeeeeee.........ooooo...iiiiiiiiiii........nnnnnnnnnnnnnnn..........uuuuuuuuuuuuu

12:29 PM  
Anonymous wheres the beef said...

don't argue with me anymore i don't like it when i don't win

12:46 PM  
Anonymous Big J. said...

I haven't heard the album as of yet , but i will judge it by my own ears . Ya Dig !

1:45 PM  
Anonymous dig said...

dug

1:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i dont understand a word you just said.

2:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey does anyone know if antacids are ok to take if you have diaria?

2:26 PM  
Anonymous fuck yeah said...

take em

2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

probiotics would be better than antacids. or immodium. antacids are for acid indigestion, not the runs.

and btw, who the fuck asks medical advice on this blog?

3:20 PM  
Anonymous sallyglass said...

i especially love that we went from asking someone to shovel shit down down their throat, then asking someone else how to ease the explosiveness of their own shit. magical.

3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The same people who ask for medical advice at Whole Foods.

3:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

zanzibar snails: music to wash dishes to.

you might have won the argument, but you still lose.

4:11 PM  
Anonymous dancing4jesus said...

ummm, i really liked the album.
I dont think they were going for accuracy with the accents.
it's funny/silly/goofy, I like it.
and that shit is funky! and we all know i like to get my groove on.
...and everything that mr bbc said.

5:17 PM  
Anonymous stonedranger said...

Fake English accents as a satire of popular music critics? WHO'S being overly academic again?

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this website. to make itself feel important.

6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think what they meant was...
fake accents as a satire of pompous aristocritics who might have fun on the dance floor if they weren't too busy qualifying what's cool and what's not.

7:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just dance, people.

9:31 PM  
Anonymous friend of the bite said...

i LOve THeM!

9:33 PM  
Anonymous stonedranger said...

Hey,

For your information, I feel important no matter what I do, mkay?

10:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mavs fans for life!

11:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You also need to check out the DVD movie that comes with the CD to get a better grasp on their humor. PPT are Bloody Brilliant!

11:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

4:11 - hilarious.

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Tahiti said...

Stoney D, thanks for the review!

9:03 AM  
Anonymous Pikahsso said...

WOW honesty at it's finest ole mate, I shall take the J.R. staff out for tea and crumpettes (typed in a faux british accent)

www.myspace.com/pik

Pikahsso

11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it all sounds like regurgitated andre 3000 from around 5 years ago.

12:07 PM  
Anonymous big boi said...

"it all sounds like regurgitated andre 3000 from around 5 years ago" - it took stonedranger 8 paragraphs to say what you said in one sentence.

seriously tone that shit down

3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding posts 5,7 and 8:

Those Zanzibar Snails are some vicious posters.

3:49 PM  
Anonymous erykah badu said...

have yall seen my ex and baby daddy Andre in his last movie Semi Pro I got him them shorts right before he started wearing turbans and yarn boxers

4:29 PM  
Anonymous -|zs|- said...

Go Mavs.

7:06 PM  
Anonymous Nevada Houston Hill said...

to 3:49

We at the Zanzibar Snails Marketing department or ZSMD for short would like to take this time to congratulate you for noticing what we like to call Subversive Anon Ascendence Marketing or SAAM for short. In a secret location Mr. Chamy and I try to find Anon music blogs and post comments about how we are a perfect soundtrack to a shitty commute. Actually that won the grand prize at our think of a slogan Christmas party last year.
Since we do not have songs or a permenant line up filled with gentlemen that have stage presence and what we in the experimental community would like to call "synergy". We have to resort to a more underhanded way of reaching our target markets frontal lobes.
Also we just have an overwhelming amounts of freetime to stage what we call Anon Quarrels or AQ's for short. Living the life of a improv musician just brings an unpresidented amount of cash and so we like to kill the time in this way.
SO thank you once again for noticing our underhanded way of getting a little attention. If you would like to help or learn more about the ZSMD. Please go to www.mayyrh.com

Thank you and have a Wonderful Evening.

9:50 AM  
Anonymous DJ Doosh said...

I'd actually like to hear Zanzibar Snails and PPT collaborate and remix each others songs. That would be the ultimate in dish washing/shitty commute listening.

mash that up!

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

unprecedented, actually......

12:44 PM  
Anonymous damn gina said...

Who the fuck is PB & T and who the fuck are The Zany Snails and why should I give two shits? Ugh. Local music is for fags.

1:06 PM  
Anonymous stonedranger said...

maybe so, but you sure seem interested enough, sweetheart.

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Denglish said...

Overall the review is pretty on point but I think that it's worth 3 or 4 stars. Not a perfect 5 by any stretch, but the album is still one of the better hip hop CDs to come out of Dallas in a long time. Plus, they are great live. There are enough good tracks on this record to give it a thumbs up.

4:01 PM  
Anonymous damn gina said...

I am interested. In you, Stone Pony.

5:18 PM  
Anonymous defensive listening said...

I would just like to say (with all sincerity) that "honesty at it's finest, ole mate," is one of my favorite all time quotes on this website.

6:59 PM  

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