Ghostface Killah's epic Fishscale is the Finnegans Wake of 2006: a dense, textured creation rich with wordplay, visions, rants, and insanity. It's a kaleidoscopic crack-house opera, a true-crime novel, a Coppola screenplay. Ghostface's machine-gun rhymes fly out of the speakers so fast that by the time you've dodged one, you've been slain by a dozen others. How is anyone supposed to keep up? Now that we're starting to digest the masterwork (and the lyrics have been posted online), Outtakes thinks it's time to offer a CliffsNotes-style synopsis of the stunning opening track, "Shakey Dog":
We're riding around in a taxi smoking marijuana that smells like the fish they sell on 125th Street. The music is up loud, and we're drinking Grey Goose gimlets. I'm with a man named Frank, who's wearing a hooded sweatshirt. We are eating French fries with ketchup. Oops. Move the seat up. I accidentally spilled tartar sauce on my new shoes. We stop in front of a crack house. I load my gun and keep an eye on that 77-year-old bag lady standing in the door. She works for Kevin and keeps a shotgun in that hallway. That lady killed Kevin's brother-in-law at his boss' wedding but fled to Venezuela when the FBI started investigating.
We're headed to the third floor. Don't be paranoid, Frank. You've got a bigger gun than they do. You could go all Three Stooges on those guys. You could steal their cocaine, their Krispy Kreme donuts, kill them, go to jail, and still come out victorious. But I'm going to carry the money. We'll divvy it up later at the Marriott Hotel.
As we approach, we can see them in their living room drinking rum and watching Sanford and Son. One of them is eating plantains and rice, and the other is eating T-bone steak with big round onions on it. I'm hungry. I want some of it.
I knock on the door. "If they reach for their guns, Frank, kill them."
"Tony," I say.
"Tony? Hold on. You're always supposed to call first." He opens the door, and I point the gun at him. I tell him to lie down on the ground and enjoy the moment. Frank takes the guy's gun and cold-cocks him with it. "Where are the drugs and the money!?"
His Spanish-speaking, big-breasted wife is on the couch. She runs toward the kitchen and shoots at us. She trips, falls, breaks her wrist, and drops her gun. "Where is the cocaine!?" She doesn't answer. Frank kills her.
Look out! Here comes their big-headed pit bull, Bruno! He's got big teeth and is foaming at the mouth! I'm scared! Frank screams! He fires into the air, and a bullet bounces off the refrigerator and grazes my ear. Frank kills the pit bull, runs to the bathroom, and puts two bullets in a security guard's head. The cocaine is hidden in a vacuum cleaner, but a skinny man and a big man with a scar are guarding it. Frank shoots the skinny man, but the big guy shoots back and kills Frank. Randall Roberts
Though sometimes categorized as a simple nü-metal band, Tool is known for crafting songs about philosophy, mathematics, religion, and transcendence through time and space. Each album evolves to a new musical level while also reflecting on progressively higher planes of reality. With that in mind, Outtakes decided to "turn on, tune in, and drop out" by comparing the progressive rockers' albums to renowned drug researcher and psychologist Timothy Leary's eight-tiered model of brain consciousness. Each of Leary's stages of brain consciousness relates to an evolutionary stage of brainpower and can be stimulated by specific classes of drugs.
Opiate (1992): Bio-Survival or opioid circuit. This particular circuit is concerned with the most basic of human actions and needs. Album name aside, as Tool's first recording, Opiate is the most primal of the band's albums. Tool's musical talent is evident on this album but not refined. Singer Maynard James Keenan's lyrics relate to basic human survival, particularly in "Sweat."
Undertow (1993): Combines the emotional (alcohol) and sociosexual (ecstasy) circuits. Pure emotion drives the entire album, expressed through a range of intense screams to melancholy, monk-like chanting. Rage and sexual violence come together in the controversial song "Prison Sex."
Lateralus (2001): Neurogenetic or LSD circuit. According to Leary, awakening of this circuit of the brain allows access to collective human consciousness and past-life memories. The time sequence of "Lateralus" follows the Fibonacci sequence of numbers that is commonly found in nature. The artwork of the album also features levels of anatomy of the human body, ending with the spiritual layer that connects all beings to a higher power.
10,000 Days (2006): Neurosomatic or marijuana circuit. This circuit allows for multidimensional awareness with an emphasis on space and time travel. Musically, the instrumentation is not as revolutionary as that on Lateralus, letting many long chords run their course until finally being interrupted by pounding onslaughts of Danny Carey's drums. Keenan's lyrics also seem more grounded as well. In the delicately constructed "Wings for Marie (Pt. 1)" and "10,000 Days (Wings Pt. 2)," Keenan reflects on the death of his mother and the journey of a soul to meet its maker. Overall, the album focuses on a plane of consciousness that more fans may be able to relate to. Andrea Noble
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By all rights, Stiff Little Fingers should suck. What was once perhaps the best band of punk's second wave is down to a sole original member (although a second, bassist Ali McMordie, returned to the fold earlier this year) and, since the early 1990s, has seemingly been cashing in on a fading legend. The biggest surprise hidden within the binary codes that make up SLF's new DVD, Handheld and Rigidly Digital (released in May by Music Video Distributors), is that Stiff Little Fingers doesn't suck. In fact, these performances, mostly recorded in late 1998, show gruff-throated Jake Burns and his band of 40-somethingish colleagues at pretty close to the top of their game. There's enough grit and fire in these tunes, both the old and the new ones, to shock even the most jaded young punk and shame many of SLF's contemporaries right back into the closet at the punk rock retirement home.
Handheld isn't the exercise in nostalgia one might expect at this stage, SLF's reunion has lasted longer than its original tenure, and the post-breakup catalog is more extensive. Most of the footage here was shot at a prerelease party for SLF's 1999 album, Hope Street, and the band includes bassist Bruce Foxton, formerly of mod-superstars the Jam. While Foxton is (or at least was) a bigger star than Jake Burns has ever been, he mostly sticks to the background, allowing Burns (who looks ever more and more like a high school history teacher in his bespectacled middle age) to really show that he's still got it. The Hope Street tunes don't sound particularly out of place paired with Inflammable Material-era stuff like "Barbed Wire Love" and "Alternative Ulster."
The DVD is short on bonus material, and a performance of "Johnny Was" listed on the cover was either hidden or lost in production. The only extra is an interview with Burns, which reveals his late-'90s concerns to be similar to what they were in the late '70s namely, the ongoing conflict in his homeland of Northern Ireland. It's a topic that informs many of the Hope Street songs too. It's a straight line from "Suspect Device" to "Last Train From the Wasteland." Burns' new songs are nowhere near as incendiary, but there's no doubting his earnestness; Burns may not scream the new tunes like a barking pit bull, but his voice is in good form, and his passion is obvious.
There's some behind-the-scenes footage mixed throughout the set, though most of it is standard-issue, band-on-the-road stuff. Does anyone really need to see a clip of Foxton eating a banana on the tour bus? Handheld and Rigidly Digital captures some inspired moments by a band many consider far past its prime. But the naysayers have got nothing on Jake Burns. To paraphrase one of his most famous songs, he's not interested in being your hero anyway. Lewis Goldberg