411 Music Fact or Fiction 03.08.13: I Am Not A Human Being
Posted by Joseph Lee on 03.08.2013
Are we excited for Lil Wayne's new album? What did we think of David Bowie's The Next Day? Is it disappointing that Scott Weiland was fired from Stone Temple Pilots? 411's Jeremy Thomas and Chad Webb debate these topics and more in this week's Fact or Fiction: Music!
Welcome to another edition of Fact or Fiction: Music. I'm your host, Josephd Lee.
This week we have Jeremy Thomas against Chad Webb.
The Wu-Tang Clan are an influential rap group and I'm definitely a fan of their earlier work. The most recent albums are adequate as well. When you have that much talent on one record, it's hard for it to suck, right? That being said, I feel the best days of the group are behind them. Most of the members have their own projects going on constantly, making it difficult to fully focus on a Wu-Tang album, or when they do, how much time do they devote to it being the best it can be? I will check it out when it is released, but because the question said "excited," I'll have to say "Fiction" because ever since Ol' Dirty Bastard passed away, the releases have been less distinct and well, not really worth getting excited about. I mean, when you're in the mood for Wu-Tang, how many of us pop in Iron Flag or 8 Diagrams? The dysfunction of the group has been known for awhile now and the big question was whether or not they could collaborate long enough to finish the album. They will, but does that mean instant masterpiece? I suppose rap fans should be thankful that an all-star group like this is still working together in any fashion, but when egos are clashing that has to affect the material. I have always been interested in what they put out, but I can't say I've ever been amped at the mere announcement because what they release is never consistently great. I'll keep my eyes open for the album, but will probably forget about until that week.
Jeremy Thomas: FACT.
Wu-Tang Clan are one of the all-time great rap groups and they still deservedly have a huge following today. It's funny when you consider that it's not been a huge amount of time since their last album, 2007's 8 Diagrams, because it seems as if they've been on hiatus for much longer than that. (Conversely, it's equally hard to believe that it's been twenty years since 36 Chambers. Good Christ, I'm old.) Regardless, any time that these guys want to get back together and record new music I'm all over it. RZA has suggested that this coming album would "close the book" on the group and while I would hate to see them finally go their separate ways for good, if they're already going to then I can at least look forward to their last LP together.
It's really not. I suppose this "firing" does have a ring of permanency to it, but this isn't the first time Weiland and the rest of the band have parted ways. His recurring substance abuse has caused numerous problems/rifts in the past. Look, I love STP. They are one of my favorite grunge acts and they molded their rock sound well over the years as times and trends have changed, but as with Wu-Tang, they hit their peak long ago. Their last two albums, Stone Temple Pilots and Shangri-La Dee Da contained some good tracks, but were average at best. Those releases came in 2001 and then 2010. It's not like they were constantly pumping out music. Weiland was doing better stuff with Velvet Revolver (and on his own) and the DeLeo brothers did a great album, Army of Anyone. I think even die-hard fans have adjusted to these lapses/breaks, thus the reaction of him being out of the group is not nearly as jarring as it once would have been. The fact is, the lifespan of a rock group is not infinite. I have learned to live with that as many of the bands I adore dissolve and disappear. At least STP was not still in their prime. They released 6 albums and have been around for almost 25 years now. Let's be honest, if they were to never reunite again, would we really lose sleep over it? My point is, and this is coming from someone who owns all of their albums, who is pining for them to stay together and release more mediocre songs? If I had my way, they would take a long break and reassess things. Tackle their own projects for awhile and then many years down the road, see if there is any interest in getting back together. But keep in mind, rock splits, especially with STP, are fickle situations. Don't be surprised if they make amends in a few years.
Jeremy Thomas: FACT.
It's disappointing, sure...but is it surprising? Not at all. Wieland being fired from STP is the kind of thing that I've expected to have happen for a long time now, so much that when I saw the news I just said "Well, that finally happened" and moved on. Weiland was an integral part of the group and they won't be the same without him, but they also probably should have done this a long time ago. The man's addiction issues have been very well-documented and there comes a point where you just can't stand by and continue to let a friend screw up not only his life, but your own as well. Weiland's problems have been very real thorns in STP's side and they had to cut the strings at some point. My only surprise is that it took this long.
Of course it may have sounded better. How can anyone say "Fiction" for this? "It absolutely would not have sounded better with Michael Jackson!" How could they know for sure? Anyway, the story is Jackson turned down songs that ended up on other albums, specifically Justin Timberlake's debut Justified. "Rock Your Body" is a really good track and Timberlake made it his own. Michael Jackson was The King of Pop, so it's fair to say that his version might have been an improvement. He was a musical genius after all. It's like saying Stanley Kubrick may have done a better job with Napoleon than Steven Spielberg will. That's definitely possible. I don't really care that Jackson didn't want it though; fate gave it to someone else. Timberlake was an appropriate second choice. If anyone has the potential to reach similar heights in pop, it would be Timberlake (possibly Usher). Hell, he's already on his way. Timberlake got a lot of his style and such from Jackson obviously, so it's not a disappointment that he took one of Jackson's discarded numbers and turned it into a hit. They share a lot of qualities. Did Jackson leave any other unfinished songs? Timberlake should snatch those up if they exist.
Jeremy Thomas: FACT.
It may have sounded better, sure. I'm not saying the song definitely would have sounded better or even probably would have, but it's possible. Listen, Timberlake knocked that one out of the park, much like the majority of his solo career. If you're a fan of pop music, you have to appreciate what he brought to it. That being said, it obviously has that Jackson sound and I could absolutely have seen him nail it as well. I don't know if Jackson could have improved upon it, but I certainly wouldn't have put it past him because when he was on, he was absolutely unbeatable. Here's the problem though...Jackson was not at the best of his game in 2001. Just look at Invincible, the album that "Rock Your Body" would have ended up on. It's not a terrible album but it's Jackson's worst and "Rock Your Body" is better than pretty much all the music on that disc. So this is FACT only on a technicality.
I'm not a huge Alter Bridge fan, but I like them. The group is a solid collection of talent between the three former Creed members and Myles Kennedy, who is probably better known at this point as the substitute Axl Rose at the R&R Hall of Fame performance last year and Slash's solo work. They sort of got off to a rough start but have been improving with every album and so I'm certainly interested to see if they can top AB III. Besides, if nothing else the more Alter Bridge we get, the more chance that we don't have to listen to Creed any time in the near future and considering how bad Full Circle was, that's a good thing. Screw Scott Stapp.
Chad Webb: FICTION.
Though it may not be popular to admit, I have been a fan of all things Creed since the beginning, and when the band initially broke off from Scott Stapp to form Alter Bridge, I was on board because it was basically the same sound with a different lead singer. That being said, Alter Bridge has really come into their own, established their own identity. They improve with each album in my opinion while not drastically changing their sound; maintaining their roots. What increased my respect for Alter Bridge is Miles Kennedy, who is one hell of a frontman. His work with Slash is awesome and he's proven that he can belt Guns ‘n Roses hits pretty damn well too. I'm hoping Tremonti and Stapp's solo outings, Alter Bridge, and Creed can co-exist as the years go on with albums getting released whenever the time is right. But to directly answer the question, yes, I am interested in a new Alter Bridge effort because they are talented musicians that have continually recorded intense, catchy tunes. I look forward to it whenever it comes out.
Strongest fact of the week right here. The Next Day is easily the best album of the year so far and an instant favorite of mine. I love that Bowie didn't bother to tell anyone that he was recording this album until he dropped "Where Are We Now?" right out of nowhere, it's antithetical to the very nature of how the music industry works where you hype the hell out of your album. Bowie doesn't need to do that; hell, he's not even touring to support the album because he doesn't have to. He's David Freaking Bowie, after all. And consequently, the album is phenomenal. It's a bold, dark and intelligent album, much like we would expect from him and is quite possibly one of the better discs of his career, which is saying quite a bit. Don't take my word for it though...go and get it as soon as it's out. You won't be disappointed.
Chad Webb: FACT.
It is an impressive return, but I would go as far as to say that The Next Day is Bowie's best album in many many years. It has been a decade since his last record, and I have to say his work in the 90's and early 2000's is among his most forgettable. That's not say all of it was worthless, but overall I don't think it's very special and doesn't come close to the achievements during the first half of his career. The Next Day has Bowie sounding alive and energetic, mixing softer songs with ones that are more rock based and also those which focus on pop. It is a superb mixture of sounds that meshes wonderfully on one album and almost the entire set is effective. I like Bowie, but was not about to consider buying the album until I heard it first. It's worth the money.
I want to be. I really, really want to be. But I just can't find it in me to be remotely excited by anything Lil Wayne does anymore. None of the singles we've heard off the album have been particularly good and like everything he does these days, he just seems to be going through the motions. Kanye West is welcome to his opinion but with all due respect to him, Wayne is far from one of the greatest of all time (but then, Beyonce's music video was far from one of the greatest of all time too...yes, I went there). I think it's time that Wayne left the recording to other artists and devoted his time to his label, or skateboarding or whatever the hell he plans on doing. His best days are behind him.
Chad Webb: FICTION.
Well, if the song "Bi***es Love Me" is any indication as to how the rest of the album sounds, I'm most certainly not excited. When I reviewed that track in Buy or Sell, I mentioned that if "Carter" was not in the title of the Lil Wayne album, it should be approached with caution. I stand by that. The first I Am Not a Human Being was released in 2010, when he was in prison. If I'm being generous, I would call it average. It did have a few solid tunes, but nothing fantastic, mid-level all the way. I see the sequel being more of the same. Lil Wayne is a talented rap artist, and he's always recording, but you never know if he'll put forth 100% effort or not. When he's firing on all cylinders, he's great, but I don't get the sense that he's delivering his A-game judging from the material out there currently. Thanks to Spotify, I'll likely give it a listen, but I can't say as I care much about its arrival.
Score Card: 4 for 6
Anything you agree with? Disagree with? Sound off in the comment section.