(Sorry Juniper!, 2012)
Books on Tape … eh, doesn’t really exist anymore. Not in the technical way a band or artist should, as in occupying a functional space within the space-time continuum. No, Books on Tape doesn’t exist like that. Todd Drootin is/was Books on Tape, and has/had been from at least since 2006 when it ended to about 199something when it started, and even before then he liked music and was in bands so he had that going for him. I’ve had a little to drink and I’m much more interested in where this is going in my head than any sort of critical analysis, so bear with me for like two seconds.
Oh right, this isn’t really new music – this was recorded in 2006. Drootin dusted it off and released it to you as Retired Numbers. You’re fucking welcome.
That’s somewhat important. Also important is the fact that I simply had to drink before I started writing about Retired Numbers. Here’s why that’s important – I made this tweet the other day when I first heard the album, and its relevance to the present situation is more than a little bit passing.
— RM Jenkins (@CM_rmjenkins) November 20, 2012
Bzzt, indeed. As you can see, I’m still fairly mushmouthed about the whole thing. The experience has left me semi-vocab-less, but since this is a blog entry and you’re reading it, I’ll suck it up and get past the silliness and try to populate this page with some vestige of coherence. Yeah, I know it’ll be a stretch, but bear with it. Remember, there’s beer in me. (Don’t worry, it’s good beer. Shoutout to Weyerbacher and Southern Tier.)
So Books on Tape’s been around, and somehow there’s a new record and it’s not on No Type and I’m really psyched about it. Like Andrew WK “m/” psyched, because before I sat down and really gave it a good listen, I heard “Super Dr.,” track one. Not only is the spirit of beatpunk alive (I love that designation by the way – let’s narrowly define it for our purposes as a sample/laptop-based genre that’s as weird and energetic and in your face as honest-to-god punk rock), but it’s going to kill every song released this year. Don’t believe me? I’ve embedded the album below, and if you’re not freaking out by the time the track descends, geniusly, into noir paranoia, you’re crazy and I don’t want to be your friend anymore. That sounds hyperbolic, but it’s not, because I’m listening to it again and I’m bouncing around in my chair.
“Super Dr.,” a clusterfuck of samples, chaos, and cartoonish buffoonery, is the sound of Todd Drootin firmly wrapping his hands around your neck and squeezing until you see a kaleidoscope of stars popping under the spell of a dope breakbeat. And then “Have You Seen This Man?” opens with a sampled acoustic riff that devolves into a European spy chase, except that Norman Cook is the spy and everybody’s cheering against him. I’m cheering against him. The track is so much more indebted to cocky, in-your-face noise than dance that it’s actually making me laugh right now. Maybe it’s the booze … but “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls” does almost the exact same thing, but this time stretches out for a while and makes me laugh at its TLC-baiting title and Looney Tunes–conveyor belt mayhem.
This is all great. All GREAT. And at only six songs and twenty-seven minutes, it only begs to be expanded. “Johnny Drunk on the Rocks” is a funk score to my hangover tomorrow, but even it rips itself apart and reconstructs itself by its closing notes. “Big League Animal” is a hip hop party in a medieval lake containing … spirits. And “Safety First” is nothing if not cutthroat, belying its caring title.
I’m pretty sure I had a Conor Oberst dig in here somewhere, because Drootin’s sister played in Bright Eyes – I want to make fun of Conor Oberst so bad. But it just didn’t fit until the end here, long after I’ve left the euphoria of Retired Numbers behind and I’m just cynical and ready for bed. But no amount of unpleasantness on my part is going to take away from the absolute knockout that is Books on Tape’s swan song … which happened to occur a while ago … so is this even relevant? Am I relevant? Is Retired Numbers even relevant? Maybe I should listen to “Super Dr.” again, punch myself in the face, and get a grip. In fact, maybe we all should do that. Retired Numbers sounds as fresh today as it ever would have. Relevant? Shut up. It’s action personified. Try to tell me that isn’t relevant.
RIYL: Prefuse 73, Captain Ahab, Subtle