REVIEW: The Zeitgeist According To MuthaWit and P.O.S.

T wo must-hear albums from@muthawit and @yeahrightpos m4s0n501

Two albums have been in near constant rotation: MuthaWit’s PMS Junkie (full album stream here) and P.O.S.’s We Don’t Even Live Here, both of which easily qualify as two of the most passionate, political and neck-snapping albums of 2012.  Both albums, very different responses to the upside-down-is-rightside-up economic and election cycles we’ve live through, are exemplary in their passion, and  easily qualify as two of the best of the year. But whereas P.O.S. declare a fierce resistance to the status quo in the form of an alternative point of view and community, MuthaWit’s Boston Fielder confronts the absurdity head-on, embraces it and reflects it back.

PMS Junkie is a post-punk-jazz satire, a pointed critique of our consumerist culture undergirded with pulsing, headnodding polyrhythms.  Fielder’s supple arrangements, combined with deft lyrics eschews simplicity if only to challenge the listener to seriously engage him.  Have to admit: I was immediately hooked by the album’s lead single, “Celine In America” [link], but much of the album resisted my attempts to get my arms (and ears) around it.  But then, one day recently, the whole thing opened up to me.  Yes, having the lyrics helped.

For example, you get an immediate sense of where Fielder’s head in from the lyrics of the opening track, “The Gorilla In The Room”:

Pizza barons and the Mormons
taxless opportunities.
Top 1 percent of 1 percenters
bitch got business equity.

All the Arabs named Muhammed
Hard to know who to arrest.
Every tourist has a camera.
Every blogger’s a journalist.

But it’s an album that pays big dividends by just getting under the headphones and turning the volume up.  In addition to the aforementioned “Celine,” standout tracks include “The Last Time I Ask For It (Give It To Me)”; “Mughs Don’t Love You Cause You Vote” and “Two Fisted God”.  And “She Don’t Recognize Me No More”  (track #12 here) is a poignant meditation on a soldier who’s returned from war.

Know going into the P.O.S. album that Stefon Alexander is a hip hop punk anarchist and this is his 11-song manifesto.  That’s a nice way of saying he calls bullshit on not only most of hip hop, but the overall environment of capitalist impulses that the mainstream examples of the genre and Western culture at large reflect.

As he says in “They Can’t Come”:

I was kicked out of school, never warned | picked out, red flagged as a dirt bag | sick fuck, punk with a rat in his book bag | pig pen with a head full of deal wit it | mouth full of fuck that, no concealing it

Or this from “Lock-Picks, Knives, Bricks and Bats”:

didn’t get in to win | cause I don’t respect the game | I got up with all my friends | and picked a repellent name | I constantly recommend a little bit of disdain | a little bit of resistance | they can hang

It’s a pushback and, at the same time, a reach for some third way where the goal is neither blind conformity nor holding onto independece long enough to cash out to the highest bidder, but rather achieving some impossible dream.  Not sure what that is, but he implies a state that involves excellent work, solidarity with his Doomtree comrades and other likeminded people who want an alternative our consumption-focused culture.  In fact—and here’s the anarchist part—he wants to smash all of the consumerist, materialist facades we hide behind.

For example, check out the video for “Bumper”:

Is this all a pose?  I certainly hope not, and I’m encouraged that Alexander’s background suggests that this is who he really is.  After all, this is the guy who started out as a member of a punk rock band in high school, and seems to have kept a healthy skepticism when it comes to authority. (“No Kings” was the title of this year’s Doomtree album, and is something he shouts out on WDELH and his previous one, Never Better.) He references the West Bank, shouts out hacker collective Anonymous, and even works the late Christopher Hitchens into a rhyme.

But, at the end of the day, all the politics and ideas wouldn’t mean anything if the music didn’t hold up, which is does, start to finish.  WDELH is full of rich soundscapes that range from hip hop boom bap to raucous indie drums, thick basslines and even Bon Iver pushed through autotune.  Add to that Alexander’s delivery, which is nothing short of urgent throughout, and you’ve got a thrilling listening experience.

What’s most exciting is that in MuthaWit and P.O.S., we have albums that provide honest musical responses to the environment we’re all living through.  I’d say these are something of zeitgeist-y albums, each in their own way: Bracing in their fierce individuality and invigorating with their particular visions.  And pulled off masterfully, the way all good music and art should be.

Bravo.

Additional note: Earlier, we’d mentioned that P.O.S. was going to be on tour.  That’s been cancelled due to his need for a kidney transplant.  His crew has successfully crowdfunded money to cover the costs of the transplant, but he could use additional dollars. That’s the fact of life of musicians, who typically don’t have stable incomes.  If you want to donate, you can do so here.

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Rob Fields is the founder and publisher of Bold As Love Magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @robfields.