Thursday, May 11, 2006

Pick a Bigger Weapon



It's been some time since the Coup's previous and ill-distributed album, Party Music. While I managed to get my hands on their newest release, Pick a Bigger Weapon--nicely timed up with May Day--well in advance, it's taken me some time to listen to it enough so I could write a quasi-comptent review. And here it is.

Partly due to the controversy surrounding the original and never-released cover art of Party Music (created before 9/11, depicting Boots and Pam detonating the WTC with a bass tuner), and partly because of their move to a bigger label (Epitaph), Pick a Bigger Weapon has already received its fair share of press in the mainstream. (One of the upsides of this coverage has been a lot of interviews where Boots name drops PLP.) In all the reviews I've read so far, it's being hailed as the Coup's best release to date. I suppose this makes me the dissenting opinion. Don't get me wrong--it's a good album. But ever since Party Music was released, Boots has mellowed out quite a bit. Compare the new album to, say, Steal This Album, or the two LPs preceding it, and you'll notice the difference right away. While the production quality has increased significantly, the communist battle anthems seem to have decreased proportionately. The politics are still golden: no pandering to nationalism, no sexism, one track even promotes G.I. rebellion, etc., but the rage behind the humor has cooled off significantly and given way to a number of slow jams, and even toned down vocals.

Anyone familiar with the group's previous releases will notice the increased number of "slow jamz"-style tracks on the record ("I Just Wanna...," "Baby Let's Have...," "MindFuck," and maybe "Tiffany") as well as generally laid-back or happy-go-lucky sounding tunes ("The Stand," "ShoYoAss," "I Love Booster!"). That said, there's some bumpin' tracks too. Most notably are "We Are The Ones," "My Favorite Mutiny," "Ass-Breath Killas," and "Captain Sterling's Little Problem." There are perhaps fewer guest appearances on this album than on Party Music, but they include some true greats: Black Thought, Talib Kweli, and even Jello Biafra.

A lot of critics seem to be happy about the shift in tone. While I can appreciate some more relaxed tracks--maybe one or two of them--four or more seems a bit overboard. In a period of increasing racism and fascist repression, workers need something a litte more consistently militant to be their soundtrack to the struggle. Here's hoping the next Coup release can fulfill that desperate need.

Out of five (red?) stars, I give Pick a Bigger Weapon three stars. A handful of the tracks will fit nicely on your Coup mixtape, but by the second listen to the album in its entirety, it's likely you'll find yourself skipping a few tracks.

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