Buck 65

463 EP

(WEA International; 2004)

By Aaron Newell | 29 September 2004

In early 2005 Warner USA will release a career-spanning Best of Buck 65 in an attempt to entice the American pop market to accept Halifax’s most heralded hip hop hero when the Talkin' Honky Blues (2003) follow-up drops shortly thereafter. In the meantime, Warner Canada has given Buck loyalists a CD-EP to argue about. 463 is largely culled directly from Rich Terfry’s substandard Honky back catalogue, and therefore is unsatisfying for fans looking for a developed statement of progression.

Where the “463” album version’s guitar freak-out sounded a little out-of-place, Terfry goes the gutsy route, ditches the dainty harpsichord, plugs in the Fender, and chunks up the drums to bring out a well-buried nastiness on the remix. Who’d have thought that Buck and Sabbath could gel so well? Both “463’s” have their merits---one’s a little edgier, the other more tastefully tactful--but despite their varying instrumentations each are obviously cookies of the same cutter. Buck’s umpteenth dirty-grandpa bedtime story works better than you’d think it should, but the end results are neither surprising nor charming enough to be remarkable.

While the “463’s” are palatable, “El Dorado” is this release’s real trap. The percussion is crisp and breaklike in its progression--something you missed on Honky if you got on the wagon at any Buck-stop before it. Eeriness skittles from muffled synths weaving in and out of the high-ends, and gun-assembly clicks evoke even more shivers by accentuating the drum track. A beautiful, singular guitar lick loops as Terfry fills-in two of the most complete characters he’s sketched since “Stella”: the female enchantress starts with black hair and blue eyes and by the end of the story her features have traded colours. While Buck’s string of sung “She’s” is beginning to leer dangerously close to a pop-career-defining Lucy saga, this particular partner is a risk worth taking.

If Terfry wasn’t already being sold as the '00's Tom Waits, “Out of Focus” would connect the dots. A study in contrasts, the dirty old man comes off pitiable, the gruff voice and drunk bass kicks shine a humming organ halo, and our guts turn as we sympathize with the character’s desperation: “Dog won’t play with me, I’m smelly and unshaven / Walking in circles and searching for a safe haven…. Too stubborn to apologize / All my memories are wallet-sized.” A half-successful experiment, “Out of Focus” plays like being locked in a confessional.

Finally, “Phil (live)” is, essentially, the over-arranged video version of the Square (re-released on Warner in 2003) single. I’ve got a soft spot for the album version: the simple guitar-and-break combo is a perfect match, and Terfry’s lyrics coalesce into one of his most transcendent, inarguably poetic songs. “Phil” gets bonus points for being a rare-breed of not-corny hip hop love song, too. The dense instrumentation on the live version clouds the original’s charming simplicity and makes no improvements thereon. No great redemption is the fact that this song is too good to be rendered unlistenable by a couple of slide guitars.