I’m sitting in Columbus Airport in a starbucks waiting for a flight.
Through the house speakers is a steady, non-threatening mix of
‘chill-out’ music; a neutered continuous breeze of hi hat, fluttery bass
and just-barely there vocals in every permutation of mock-rasta dialect
imaginable. It’s not bad, but it’s not good either, especially because
it has me drawing comparisons to a group that once meant quite a lot to
me, Thievery Corporation.
A new track has started. I’m pretty sure it’s not the Corp. because
aside from their most recent album I have them all and while the
following monologue will be both in part a eulogy and a criticism of their
later music unless Rob Garza and Eric Hilton have completely run out of
ideas and taken to blatantly repeating themselves this track is an
almost exact rip-off of the first track on their 2000 MASTERPIECE The
Mirror Conspiracy, (entitled ‘Treasures’). I crack out Mirror Conspiracy whenever I
want a dimly lit, opium-like mood but rarely delve into any of the
subsequent albums because, well, they’re just a bit… irrelevant.
That makes me sad but it is also a verdict I feel justified delivering
when, well, when I go into a consumer establishment and hear music like
See Thievery Corporation is a good example of a group that
despite/because of delivering an iconic twist of a genre (or set
thereof) have essentially painted itself into a corner with said sound.
Mirror Conspiracy is by far one of the best downtempo, dub, lounge, trip
hop whatever albums ever recorded. However, it seems as though its
power and appeal set a standard to follow and in following it misters
Garza & Hilton have, to some degree swam in circles for ten years.
And on top of that Mirror Conspiracy can arguably be seen as the genesis
of the ‘chill electro’ that coats the public walls of our day-to-day
lives at grocery stores, coffee houses and just about anywhere else
music is pumped in via satellite and it is that fact especially that has irreparably harmed
It’s not their fault, but I find myself wondering if the Corp’s career
arc couldn’t be seen as a modern parallel to what happened when Miles
Davis, in the name of evolution, single-handedly birthed the
soul-sucking smooth jazz genre monstrosity with his album Tutu. That was
pioneering at the time as well, but anyone under forty who ever waited in a doctor’s
office during the 1980’s would never believe that now.
There was a time when ‘downtempo’ electro would have seemed a far out
and welcome alternative to smooth jazz, muzak or any other pedestrian
audio wall paper such as Billy Ocean or, god help us, Air Supply. But of
course once something good becomes a part of the consensual soup
it loses its potency as something meaningful and we’re left
with echoes of the connection we once felt. With Mirror Conspiracy
perhaps it is because I can so completely equate it with the context
(i.e.- time and place) that I first heard it that it remains special
and exciting to me, whereas every subsequent album of the Corp has fallen short.
not to say the subsequent albums are bad. No. But when all the
albums pretty much sound the same the question can be asked why not just
listen to the one you like the best? The original.
Oh well, I’m off to throw in Lebanese Blonde in the iPod and chill before my flight. Happy Monday everybody!!!
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