Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer Turn Up That Noise!

By Stephen Grimstead

JANUARY 25, 1999: 

Method Man, Tical 2000: Judgement Day (Def Jam)

The most charismatic MC in the ever-expanding Wu-Tang Clan empire, Method Man’s Cookie Monster rasp and rough, steady flow is in fine form on Tical 2000. Paying tribute to “the birth of a generation X, spoken with a project dialect,” Meth delivers the street-level goods to hardcore heads and establishes himself as the first Wu-Tang cover boy on his second solo joint, having it both ways in a world where hip-hop turned into hit pop a long time ago. While there’s nothing here as crossover-ready as “All I Need” from his 1994 solo debut Tical, or as undeniable (or flat-out funny) as the myth-making “Method Man” from 1993’s inaugural Wu platter, the personas those two performances cemented – the roughneck Romeo and the good-natured self-promoter – are in full effect on Tical 2000.

With resident mad scientist RZA and emerging Wu lieutenant True Master handling the bulk of the beat alchemy, Tical 2000 is a typically impressive Wu effort, though the gritty, artful claustrophobia that is the hallmark of Wu-Tang productions gets a little wearying when the record pushes past the hour mark. (Tical 2000 clocks in at nearly 80 minutes with 28 tracks and unrelated skits placed back-to-back. Twice.) Method Man is unique among Wu-Tang MCs in that he’s able to overcome this problem by marrying dense soundscapes and equally dense rhymes to a pop sensibility which comes so naturally that he probably couldn’t suppress it even if Tricky were handling the production. Even so, it’s a great relief when, 18 tracks in, the old-school funk of the Erick Sermon-produced “Step By Step” opens things up and provokes a more sing-songy flow from Meth.

The pre-millennial tension that subsumes so much of Tical 2000 is an increasingly tired hip-hop cliche, but Method Man is such a happy-go-lucky verbal assassin that his bullshit rarely obscures his true mission: implanting off-kilter, blunt-fueled rhymes directly into your mind-ass continuum. When not warning of the coming apocalypse or chastising “million dollar broke niggas still fucked-up in the game,” Meth spends his time name-dropping oldies but goodies (“Mr. Sandman, bring ’em a dream”), stealing women from Usher, tag-teaming rhymes with kindred spirit Redman on “Big Dogs,” and sparring with TLC’s Left Eye over a Mighty Clouds of Joy sample on “Cradle Rock.” – Chris Herrington

Vic Chesnutt, The Salesman And Bernadette (Capricorn)

An unalterably marginal singer-songwriter (in regard to his place on the pop landscape, not his talent) from the same fertile Athens, Georgia, music scene that produced R.E.M., Vic Chesnutt may well be his own best critic. No attempt at a thumbnail Chesnutt description could hope to top this explanation he gave during a Spin interview a couple of years ago: “Vic Chesnutt is an autodidactically pretentious writer of pseudo-symbolic, text-centered dirge-ballads, who performs them himself in nighttime venues throughout the Western whitey world, singing in a distinctive but ever decreasingly gruff and folksy voice.”

The Salesman And Bernadette marks Chesnutt’s return to the Atlanta-based indie label Capricorn after a brief tryst with the majors (1996’s Capitol release About To Choke). Similarly, Chesnutt himself provides the best summation of his new record’s personality and strategy in the text to one of his Vonnegut-style doodles on the album jacket, informing the readers that they’re to “Infer a Lovely story…of loss and longing and sloppy satori.”

The secret heroes of The Salesman And Bernadette, however, are Lambchop, a 13-piece, Nashville-based art-country band that backs Chesnutt. With their old-timey atmospherics and muted, New Orleans-style horn section, Lambchop’s stellar musical accompaniment combines with Chesnutt’s strongest recorded singing to fashion a strand of soul music we may well have never heard before. Highlights: “Replenished” and “Maiden,” two of the best songs you’ll hear about sitting around the house. – C.H.

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