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With an X on Each Hand Cause I’m Too Young to Drink

By Connor Morris | 27 December 2005

To be 17 and plumb enamored with music is somewhat arduous. I can’t imagine living in the States, where the law tells the kids they can pick their next commander in chief at 18, but can’t hit a club show until they’re pushing 21. Three more years of should-to-shoulder halls and dank basements would be severe agony; I’ve only been legit for seven days, but the spoils are already falling. Waiting for that night when the bars open at your leisure is ball-busting at best.

The last eleven months were especially difficult. I blitzed the music snob palisade; no avail. Escalation yielded, I eventually found myself looking at the record store whiteboard thinking, “I should be going to all these shows.” Live appearances equate literature. Plenty of bullshit is going out on there, but there’s still good to be evoked in trudging through it first hand. But when you’re relegated to the AA posse, choice isn’t exactly presenting itself at every corner. I’ve taken my share of cracks at getting past those bashful doormen, but I’m still too easy to pick out, and up. They even tried to toss me out of my own birthday party because my identification hadn’t come in the mail yet. Pure malice, and I’m not talking ostrich. I took what I could get, and I’m a better (this is gonna sound weird) man for it.

So what then, is a kid to do? Besides praying for Stella and Scarlett to drop from the sky, there’s always home listening. Oh right, those Grado’s are more than just uncomfortable ear-muffs. And if you’re going to do a lot of spinning, you’re going to need a lot of wax. This was a theory I treaded over far too light. Monthly bank statements tell me I coughed up more on music than I did on everything else combined. Granted I’m not paying rent, but it’s still serious cash. The 1st and 15th were for trading in the cheque for some twelves. Hobby gave way to habit, habit to obsession, obsession to addiction. Can’t stop won’t stop, etc. They kept piling, I lost track. I swear there’s still plastic wrap around a few of them.

You think alcohol fucks youth up? Try justifying a $56 purchase of Japanese psych. Moving weight looks harmless when compared to marketing krautrock bootlegs. We’re too young to be exposed to this much geekery. In a quest to purify the liver you’re fogging the brain. Don’t let it happen to you and yours. Know the signs. When the kid has a $50 a week routine, he’s got a problem. Let my story be a lesson. Do your children justice. If it’s between beer and b-sides, pick the beer.

*****

This article was supposed to be about how 2005 was the half-decade’s worst year for music. I flipped it for a sermon. Clearly I’ve consumed too much of something. Here now, are the ten things I thought hardest about while listening to music this year:

Man of the Year: Nik Kozub

This is one of those moments when I do that thing where I talk about a local phenom, cutting my audience to a really select group. Fuck it, the dude did some big things, and this is (kind of) a Canadian website. In the last eighteen months, he’s produced three of Edmonton’s biggest acts (Cadence Weapon, The Vertical Struts, Twin Fangs), made his record label one of the most well respected in the city, started the DJ night that turned everyone in the scene on to French and German house, and fronted Shout Out Out Out Out, a band that’s opened for !!! and Chromeo, among others. Otherwise known as Nik7, Kozub is one of the leading figures pulling the west out of its dusty rock tailspin and thrusting it into the limelight where it’s long deserved to be.

>Woman of the year: Sufjan Stevens

At least he isn’t trying to fool anyone.

>Label of the year: kitsuné
French people, who knew.

>Best show I couldn’t go to: Tortoise
I don’t think I’ve gone a day without hearing about this since they played here over six months ago. “The drums were so (head bang motion)!”

>Best bet of 2005: The Stooges reissues
Forget the debate over Fun House being the best American album of all time, this could very well be the best American band of all time.

>Lyrics to remember:
“But the eight whips I’m about to trade for a spaceship / call me NASA, man, inside plasma fam / you gotta warrant? I’m in orbit / come after Cam.”

>Biggest disappointment of the year: Prefuse 73: Surrounded by Silence
Have you seen the tracklist?

>Best news for 2006: Ghostface & Doom doing an album together
If hip-hop needs anything right now, it’s a time tested MC over new crew beats. The old guys are going backwards; the youth are too busy being feminists.

>Bad news for 2006: Sufjan plans to do an album for every state
This can’t be humanly possible, let alone true.

>Story I’m most tired of hearing about: New Clipse album
Too much heavy talk about the heavy talkers. Their mixtape was rap album of the year, but I can’t possibly read or run another blog post about how much everyone is anticipating their shit. It’ll come out when it comes out.

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Grandmasters, Ned Flanders as the Devil, and Cultural Stereotypes

So Chet called me out. Pick on the new guy; don’t worry, I get it. Yeah, I’m the kid who dropped the dubious 64% on our 8th best album of the year, better known as Grandmasters. I realize this is more of a Counterpoint type of thing, but I don’t have the time or the fortitude to hit up thesaurus.com for a proper, more intelligent rebuttal.

Let’s start with some brief history. I’m a recently turned eighteen year old white kid from middle class Alberta. I’m hardly "pimpin’ a culture." My jeans are tapered and my shirts fit well. Someone once said something along the lines of “hipster-hop,” but for the life of me I can’t recall the context. Man do I fucking love rap, though. Given how old I am, consider it lucky that I didn’t get my start on Def Jux or Anticon. No, for me it was Enter the Wu-Tang, Liquid Swords, and Illmatic. I was chubby when I was thirteen, and I spent (and despite dropping the weight, spend) way too much time on message boards, so some credit gets passed on to those guys.

This isn’t going to be some impassioned short story about how they instantly clicked, though. They didn’t, it took serious effort, and the patience paid off. I was learning basic addition when 36 Chambers exploded; twelve years later and it’s easily one of my top ten albums of all time. Swords, and eventually Supreme Clientele, became favourites as well, which is part of the reason it seems so implausible that I’d shit on a record by one of my most admired MCs. My love for the genre hit a new peak this year. I even went as far as to start a half-hearted blog that dealt predominantly with said music. To my surprise, it snowballed, and eventually landed me a gig here at CMG. (On a side note, thanks again, Aaron. I swear twenty years from now there’s going to be this big batch of writers and musicians who will talk about how much they owe you, but I digress.)

So yeah, I guess you could call me a “big” Wu-Tang fan, too. When it was initially announced that Muggs and Gza would be getting together for the latest in a long line of a Wu side collabs I was skeptical. The Cypress crew had fallen off years ago, and Gza’s caliber had been eroding, albeit slowly, for the better part of the 21st century. Tracks leaked quickly; the stagnant “All in Together Now,” and the relaxed “Those That’s ‘Bout It,” which still stands as one of the album’s best. Two things were evident: Muggs was on the gritty dark beat steez, and Gza was fucking tired.

When the entire thing finally did hit shelves, little had changed. I’m not going to throw 900 more words at you about why I think the record sucks, so I’ll break it down like this. Bust the album up into two track intervals and listen to them over a period of three hours or more and you’ve got some marginally pleasing stuff. Stick it all together and you’re left with the phoniest, most tepid Wu-Tang related project since the last U-God, and prior to that Indie thing. Is this neo-white guy rap trying to be circa ’94 black guy rap? Really, I could care less. When the songs are playing there’s this little person inside my head telling me how much I should like them, but it never really sets in. The whole thing feels contrived. It’s like that episode of The Simpsons where Homer gets sent to hell and his “ironic punishment” is to be force fed donuts for all eternity. Substitute donuts for limp wrist bangers and you’ve got Grandmasters. I guess that makes me James Coco.