» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Dizzee Rascal
XL Recordings

Rating: 9.5/10 ?

October 1, 2004

You spoiled, short attention spanned, smarmy, CMJ grubbing, Faint loving, indie rock hype machine teat sucking schmuck - why the fuck did you let this album slip under your radar? Where were the apocalyptic album reviews that resounded like the words of an Old Testament prophets before a mass of lecherous Moabites? Why didn't you beat down the door of your local record store the week this came out? - don't give me your meager excuses, because you landed Turn on the Bright Lights Part Deux in the Billboard top 20, and didn't care about this joint enough to let it slide in at the bottom of the Heatseakers chart. Where was the college radio hoopla? - I realize that the folks from Matador weren't behind this one, sending out carefully concealed packages of cocaine to thank your station for your support, but don't even try to tell me that The Arcade Fire and Pinback's latest releases were more inspired and enjoyable than this.

To put it another way - why didn't you care?

As much as we as a society of music lovers have been patting ourselves on the back lately for championing Good Art, and pushing artists like Modest Mouse and The Postal Service to unimagined levels of household recognition, we need to step back and examine the almost complete lack of excitement around this sophomore release from he who may very well be The One capable of changing everything - and then we should ask ourselves whether our community is really demonstrating anything other than the mainstream's love 'em and leave 'em mentality. I guess one could credit Showtime's lukewarm reception to the fact that it comes less than a year after the US release of Dizzee's world-shattering debut, Boy in Da Corner, but that still doesn't explain why Ted Leo can drop a rushed, middling record a scant 18 months after his most definitive work and watch copies fly off the shelves like a volley of cruise missiles - if anything, you should be thanking Mr. Dylan Mills for bending to your irrational need for More, Right Now! and delivering an album that somehow manages to easily outdistance its marvelous predecessor.

Maybe Showtime has been a bit of a sleeper because it doesn't pack any singles as immediate and distinct as "Fix Up, Look Sharp" or "Jus' a Rascal." It does, however, carry fifteen stellar cuts that hold more replay value than any even Boy in Da Corner's choicest of morsels, and to make your oversight all the more grievous, this one actually feels like an Album, following a relatively steady narrative arc and delving into a remarkable range of human emotions.

No, what it boils down to, I'm afraid, is that Dizzee's simply lost his shock value, especially for the 80s dance party loving white kids. But I'll spare you the tired digression into the vapidity of what's come to pass for the indie music community and actually start discussing this brilliant album's ins and outs.

As previously mentioned, Showtime tells a story, working in a series of roughly three movements (that's an inexact figure, and making exact delineations can be a bit messy, but it works for the most part) to examine the exuberance, insecurity, and responsibility that can stem from the remarkable feat of producing an Internationally Acclaimed Debut LP. Mills carries no art school pretensions, eschewing skits, instrumental segues, suites, reprises, and any other tropes that scream concept album, and there are certainly a couple of loose songs that accomplish a few purposes at once or revert our attention to something that went on five tracks earlier, but Showtime still distinctly feels like something much more substantial than 15 disparate spokes on one man's aesthetic wheel. It tells a story, and the story works.

We begin where we left off - with the fun loving, teenage Dizzee that everyone found so damn endearing last time around. By the end of "Stand Up Tall," the disc's second cut, it's obvious that Mills, first and foremost, loves what he's doing, and his unbound, almost hedonistic pursuit of pop ecstasy shines through every single slice of shuffling X-Box crunk. Even "Learn"'s slinky Latin ghetto glide and confrontational "who the fuck are you?"'s sound playful and harmless - the guy's just having fun making music, and nailing every single hook along the way.

"Hype Talk" follows and marks a shift into more introspective territory. Its claustrophobic beats and spaced out, eastern synth samples (think Don Cherry's "Brown Rice") steer the music into darker, headier territory, and Dizzee's rhymes address the more negative side of becoming a recognized personality. By the time we get to "Respect," it's as if we've witnessed Mills transform from a Frodo into a Golem - his defensiveness, vulnerability and guttural promise to "make you respect me" make for one of the most haunting and even downright frightening transformations I've ever heard take place over the course of an album (it also marks the first time that a hip-hop song has ever reminded me of anything remotely Lord of the Rings related). It seems as if all of the pressure, the shit-talking and uncertainty (what with fame being fleeting and stuff) have taken their toll on Dizzee, and it's creates a terrifying image, all the way down to the song's skeezy, dub-influenced underwire.

Leave to Dizzee to end the record on the posi tip, though. "Get By," "Dream," and "Imagine" all marry hey-I-escaped-and-you-can-too exhortations with soaring musical accompaniment (the latter of the three sounds like Junior Boys' emotionally resonant synth IDM filtered through Sigur Ros' overarching glacial uplift - then again, maybe I've just been listening to it too much and too closely) and soar to a tranquil, melodic perch at which none of Mills' other compositions even hinted. By the end of it all, it seems as if he's taken advantage of his platform and used it to preach the sort of inspirational rhetoric that only a teenager can get away with, and he charts thrilling new musical ground for future ventures.

So what we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the finest pieces of pop music to drop this decade. Seriously. Dizzee has taken the promise of his debut album and created a set of songs that sounds capable of staying strong through the tides of changing tastes and times and current enough to soundtrack a middle school dance. And it's the kids, anyhow, that really need Dizzee - in the midst of all of the mall emo, bling-bling, and rock revival riffraff running buckwild over our consolidated airwaves (and their sickeningly stylish new wave throwback counterparts hogging the indie spotlight), we need someone to step up and play the part of Nirvana, Beck, or A Tribe Called Quest to legions of artistically and emotionally directionless adolescents. Sometimes, artists become immensely popular because they can deliver almost everything to almost everyone, and Mills demonstrates that capability unlike anyone to emerge in quite some time. And you're ignoring him.

Reviewed by Phillip Buchan
A one-time music director at WUOG in Athens, Phillip is into college radio, literature, writing, buying records, going to shows, talking to friends, learning -- pretty much the same stuff that all of us priveledged, (pseudo?)intellectual Americans are into.

See other reviews by Phillip Buchan



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