Monday, May 31, 2010

KHALED: Khaled (Cohiba, 1992)

(As published in the Illinois Entertainer in 1992...)



Rai is the pop music of choice for lusty Algerians who'd rather gyrate on the dance floor than kowtow to the rigidity of their native Islamic culture, and Khaled is its king. For the past dozen years, his steady stream of independent releases and ecstatic live shows have wowed 'em in the Near East, and now, with the promotion muscle of Polygram and the production skills of Don Was, Khaled seems intent on contributing to the soundtrack to Western revelry as well.

Several factors, however, threaten his stateside commercial viability. First, no matter how beguiling those burnt out on the flatness of rap's vocal template find Khaled's serpentine North African tenor, he doesn't sing in English, so it's hard to relate to what his press kit assures us are surrealistic lyrics worthy of Apollinaire. Second, at least one third of this disc--the third where he goes heavy on the accordion instead of coming on like a disco dervish--sounds more like mood music at an international deli than like a key for unlocking the door between propriety and abandon.

But Khaled's main obstacle is that in the land of Madonna, Prince, and 2 Live Crew, music that celebrates the joys of debauchery no longer scandalizes people the way it used to, and without the mantle of cultural rebellion, Khlaed's exotica risks seeming beside the point.

Of course, for two thirds of this disc, especially on "Didi"--a deservingly colossal smash in Asia and parts of Europe last summer--Khaled does come on like a disco dervish, and it's during such moments that his refusal to sing in English, instead of working against him, can help restore some of the mystery to libidinous music that often gets lost in the rush to be explicit.

PiL CD Box II (1992)

(As solicited by, but never published in, Rock & Roll Disc …)

Public Image Ltd.
PiL CD Box II (Japanese import)
Columbia COCY 9338-41
Producers: Martin Atkins, Gary Langan, Bill Laswell, John Lydon, Bob Miller, Public Image Ltd.
Engineers: John Corsaro, Bob Miller
Total disc times: 36:31; 40:54; 35:17; 45:52; 12:44 (no SPARS code)

Merit: **
Sound: ****

The next time you’re in a Tokyo record store with eighty dollars burning a hole in your wallet and a desire to inflict some nihilistic blare upon your ears, do not buy this boxed set.

Not that PiL CD Box II doesn’t contain some of John Lydon’s finest howlings from the void, but all it does is repackage--without bonus tracks or alternate takes--four-and-a-half previously released PiL albums circa 1983-1987, each of
which you can buy individually and at a cheaper total cost.

Oh yeah, you also get a fifty-five-page booklet that annotates each disc, details the sixteen or so PiL lineups, and provides full lyrics, rare photos, and a band history.

Too bad most of it’s in Japanese.

So my two-star merit rating is based more on the economics of this set than on its content. At a total time of three hours, eleven minutes, and eighteen seconds, the thirty-six songs could’ve easily fit onto three CDs, a move that could’ve knocked a few bucks off the price and still left room for 1989’s Nine. Lydon is forever carping about the materialism of his former manager Malcolm McLaren, but PiL CD Box II is a pretty fair rock-and-roll swindle itself.

Still, suppose someone were to buy this doorstop for you. What would you end up with?

You’d get Compact Disc (a.k.a. Album and Cassette), the 1986 album Bill Laswell co-produced for Lydon and for which he assembled an all-star band that included Steve Vai, Bernie Worrell, Tony Williams, and Ginger Baker. Until 1992’s That What Is Not, it contained the heaviest and sharpest post-Metal Box music recorded under the PiL imprint.

You’d also get This Is What You Want, This Is What You Get (1984), which is almost as good. What put it on many critics’ turd lists was its skimpiness (thirty-six minutes), Lydon’s replacement of Keith Levene’s guitar parts with those of Colin Moore, and a horn-marred version of the single “This Is Not a Love Song.” Nevertheless, J. Kordosh, writing in Creem, captured its impact best when he said the album was probably one of the best of ’84 because it made him want to rip it off the turntable and throw it out the window.

Next, you’d get a maxi-single with “Blue Water” and two versions of “This Is Not a Love Song” (the horn-free original plus a tasteful remix), a configuration that can still be found as an import EP that adds PiL’s 1978 anthem “Public Image.” (So, like, why not include that configuration here?)

Last, you’d get Happy? (the three best songs of which are on the 1990 PiL compilation Greatest Hits So Far) and 1983’s notoriously lame Live in Tokyo. (Lydon was in fine form for the show, but the members of his band--PiL lineup number eleven according to the booklet--played as if they were sight reading, which they might’ve been.)

Since this box’s title is PiL CD Box II, I assume there’s a PiL CD Box I containing Public Image (a.k.a. First Edition, 1978), Metal Box (’79), the live Paris Au Printemps (’80), and Flowers of Romance (’81). If in fact there is, it’s a killer.

But if it costs eighty bucks, it’s a rip-off too.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Gig: Brian Wilson (2000)

(As published in the Times of Acadiana ... )

The Gig: Brian Wilson8:00 P.M. Tuesday, July 25
Aerial Theater at Bayou Place; Houston, Texas
Tickets: $36.25-$51.25
Charge by phone: (713) 629-3700

It’s true: Brian Wilson is keeping the summer alive with his first major tour since retiring as an on-stage Beach Boy thirty-five years ago, and what he’s keeping it alive with is nothing less than the entire 1966 Beach Boys album, Pet Sounds.

It may be hard for today’s kids to understand, but, for a large part of the ’60’s rock audience, Pet Sounds was and continues to be as sacred an audio relic as Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, the Rolling Stones’ Beggar’s Banquet, and the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. What makes its legendary status puzzling is that aside from “Sloop John B” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” (its two top-ten singles) and two or three other songs, the album is essentially a collection of easy-listening tracks--lush, painstakingly, lovingly constructed easy-listening tracks, but easy-listening tracks all the same.

That two of them, “God Only Knows” and “Caroline No,” are among the most gorgeous pop songs ever recorded under the name of a rock-and-roll group is hard to deny. But that at least half of them are awkward attempts to imbue an adolescent’s worldview with a dignity and pathos that adolescence by definition is too fragile to bear is hard to deny as well.

Many critics still refer to Pet Sounds (so named because with it Wilson sought to capture his favorite--or “pet”--sounds) as the Beach Boys’ “masterpiece”; when it was released on CD, Paul McCartney bought each of his children a copy. “It may be going overboard to say it’s the classic of this century,” said the Cute Beatle, going overboard, “but to me it certainly is a total, classic record.... I’ve often played Pet Sounds and cried.”

The first time I played it, I cried too, but for reasons quite different from McCartney’s. It was Christmas, 1978, and I’d received Pet Sounds along with a bunch of other records that I’d put on a wish list just to make sure my parents wouldn’t buy me Debby Boone’s You Light Up My Life by mistake. Having read so much about the Beach Boys’ Masterpiece already, and having enjoyed other Beach Boys albums and Sgt. Pepper, which the Masterpiece was said to have indirectly inspired, I let the needle drop. By the end of side one, I feared I’d been had. By the end of side two, I knew I’d been. What was this? Mantovani? The Longines Symphonette? I filed it away, mistrustful of critics for the first--but, believe me, not the last--time.

I came back to it over the years, always willing to admit that my inability to fathom its brilliance betokened a flaw in my nature rather than the music’s. But nothing--not Gary Trudeau’s constructing a week of "Doonesbury" plots around its appearance on CD in May 1990, not the inclusion and recontextualization of eight of its thirteen tracks on the Beach Boys’ five-disc box set in 1993, not even its subsequent appearance as its own elaborate four-disc box set in 1997--could convince me that the Emperor Wilson wasn’t naked.

What finally put me on its wavelength was the death of Carl Wilson in 1998. As the last actual Wilson in the Beach Boys and the group’s best lead singer, he was special in a way that Mike Love, Al Jardine, and Bruce Johnston weren’t. Besides, the fact that he was Brian’s brother provided Beach Boy fans with their best hope for an eventual reunion (blood being thicker than litigation) and maybe one more good Beach Boys album. (Don Was, who’d produced Brian’s I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times, was reportedly heading up such a project at one point.)

At any rate, Carl’s death not only put an end to the Beach Boys but also meant that no one would ever hear “God Only Knows” and “Good Vibrations,” to name just two, brought to life by their original singer again. Listening to Pet Sounds shortly after his passing and hearing its introversion, insecurity, and fear of loss within the context of the finality of death, I felt the power of its powerlessness for the first--but, believe me, not the last--time. And, like Paul McCartney, I shed a tear.

Recreating Pet Sounds on-stage has no doubt posed Wilson with almost as great a challenge as creating it in the studio did thirty-four years ago. To this end he’s being accompanied on most of the tour’s twenty-seven stops by local symphonies as well as by the same ten-member band with whom he recorded his latest release, Live at the Roxy Theatre. Featuring his own version of the Barenaked Ladies’ “Brian Wilson,” the album suggests that despite the ravages of time, drugs, and God only knows what else, Brian Wilson may have actually been made for these times after all...

Apropos of Nothing at All: For a Bitter Life, Pt. III

Several years ago, Philip Anschutz's Foundation for a Better Life opened the Pandora's Box of non-sectarian positivity by launching a billboard campaign in the best (i.e., the worst) tradition of Norman Vincent Peale. Somehow, and no doubt inadvertently, most of the billboards were only mildly nauseating. (A few--no doubt even more inadvertently--were even educational [See])

But some of them simply cried out to have their sentimental cheeriness spanked right out of them with a good, old-fashioned parody paddle, thus making necessary the establishment of the Foundation for a Bitter Life--and its own line of billboards.

Parts I & II can be viewed at the following links:

Pt. I:
Pt. II:

Here's Part III ...

For a Better Life:

For a Bitter Life:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Profile: Jack Logan (1994)

(As published in B-Side in 1994...)

Third-rate critics are always declaring third-rate albums by undiscovered "geniuses" to be the greatest albums they've ever heard. No one believes a third-rate critic, of course, so there's no harm done--no wasted money, no bitterness over having been had.

But when first-rate rock critics start praising albums by undiscovered "geniuses," and when those albums consist of two-and-a-half hours of unremixed demos, that's a different story. In fact, until the May 28, 1994, issue of Billboard, it hadn't happened before, at least not on the scale it's happening with Bulk, the new two-CD Medium Cool/Twin-Tone album by Jack Logan.

"Marking the full-blown arrival of an exceptional commiserator," wrote Billboard's Timothy White, "Bulk will stand with the most substantial rock 'n' roll of this decade."

"Well, you know, I've said before that I thought he was going out on a limb with a saw," responds Logan, the "exceptional commiserator" to whom White was referring, when asked about the quote. "I mean, to say it that quick, before the album was even released--I mean, I don't know what got into him."

Logan laughs. The thirty-five-year-old motor repairman and resident of Winder, Georgia, is as overwhelmed by Bulk's positive press as anybody else. He and his loose collective of musical buddies never expected that any of the six hundred demos they recorded during stolen moments and lost weekends over the past fifteen years would be heard by the public, let alone by Timothy White and Rolling Stone's David Fricke, who after hearing the album said, "You can't help but be awed by it."

"At first, I didn't know whether to be grateful or to worry that I was going to have to live up to that," Logan admits. "But after thinking about it, I'm just going to be grateful that somebody in that position thinks that. I hope it'll inspire me to try to do even better."

Among Bulk's forty-two songs, listeners will encounter blues, folk, and rock 'n' roll. They'll also encounter mongrel genres too new for labels, and the least varnished sound since The Basement Tapes or the latest ROIR live cassette. According to Jack, neither he nor Peter Jesperson, the president of Medium Cool/Twin-Tone and one of Logan's biggest fans, ever seriously considered doing it any other way.

"People that are familiar with where I'm coming from, you know, I could see them listening to this and saying, 'This sounds like crap. You're just beating on boxes--why even bother? Why would you let something like this out?' But to me it's an accurate representation of what we've been doing the last fifteen years, and, you know, so be it."

By "we" Jack means his longtime, multi-instrumentalist buddy Kelly Keneipp and such members of Logan's bar-band fraternity as Eric Sales (bass), Aaron Phillips (drums), Dave Philips (guitar), and a lot of others, most of them members at one time or another with Logan in such acts as the Dashboard Saviors, the Snags, Lava Treatment, and Liquor Cabinet. No fewer than eighteen musicians and racket-makers show up on Bulk, which, according to the conditions of Logan's Medium Cool/Twin-Tone contract, is the first of four albums he'll eventually release.

Since they'll never have the advantage of making another record under the relaxed conditions of thinking they're recording in a vacuum, one can't help but wonder how Logan, Keneipp, and the rest will approach the task of making "official" albums.

"We sure don't want to put out some really slick, overproduced thing," Logan explains. "That'd probably just negate any good feelings we generate with this first thing. But at the same time, you know, if they want us to do something with a little bit more consistent sound quality, I can understand that too. If I try to put out an even junkier-sounding one than this with even more songs, people would just laugh at us. I think we'll just try to make a good record with good songs on it and record it where it's not so slick that it doesn't have any life in it, but then also not with a self-consciously low-fi approach either, you know? I think there's a medium that you can strike in between that."

A lot of Bulk's charm stems not only from the variety and quality of the songs, but also from the after-hours wooziness that seems to imbue the entire album with a spirit of its own. Again, Timothy White: "It's [Logan's] singing, with its fierce weariness and flute-like nasal waver, that imparts the harsh beauty of the haunted soul."

"Gee," Logan laughs. "Well, it's totally flattering. But, you know, I'm not going to sit around quoting that to my friends if they don't like the way I'm singing: 'Well, Timothy White says that I --,' you know? I'm not going to do that. These people that know me. They wouldn't put up with that."

And besides, according to Logan, a lot of the "fierce weariness" in his voice was really the beer talking since sobriety sometimes took a backseat during the making of Bulk.

"Sorry, Mom, but yes," Logan confesses, laughing again. "You know, we're not alcoholics. I drink about once a week. But it loosens you up a little bit, and I think some of my vocal performances were probably more interesting because I'd had a couple."

They were also probably more interesting because Logan was singing about some "interesting" stuff--the scab-faced loser in "Shit for Brains," the murder of a woman in "Chloroform," the thirteen-and-counting dead men in "Underneath Your Bed," the headless corpse in "Floating Cowboy," and the general dissolution of the narrators in "Fuck Everything," "New Used Car and a Plate of Bar-B-Que," and a bunch of others. Yet Jack Logan the professional motor repairman and possible next-big-rock-'n'-roll thing seems a lot happier than the human wreckage he writes about.

"If you think about it, how many records have you ever really liked that were just telling you how great things were?" he asks rhetorically. "I take my hat off to anybody who can make a really happy statement and make it interesting, because people are more likely to be to be cynical about it: 'O.K., so you're happy. What good does that do me?'"

Logan laughs again.

"You know, life is not just a bowl of cherries all the time. But it's not a total piece of shit either. I think some people end up trying to live their songs and, you know, end up destroying themselves. But I don't see that as my fate.

"I hope not anyway."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Apropos of Nothing at All: Films from an Alternative Universe

What does Iron Man have to do with rock-and-roll? Well, Black Sabbath once recorded a song called "Iron Man," the soundtrack to Iron Man 2 was assembled from a bunch of AC/DC albums, and America once sang, "Oz never did give nothin' to the Tin Man / that he didn't, didn't already have." But, most important, in baseball the term "iron man" refers to Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken, Jr., both of whom had a lot of "hits." How much more rock-and-roll can you get?

As for the title of this film ...

... it inspired Aerosmith to come up with "Lord of the Thighs" for their 1974 album Get Your Wings. (Insert KFC or Paul McCartney-backup-group joke here.) That it also inspired the following much lesser-known film is a fact known only to the most diligent celluloid heroes.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Ever since Joni Mitchell accused Bob Dylan of being a fake and a plagiarist in the Los Angeles Times last month (,0,5684541.story?page=2), Dylan fans have rushed to their hero’s defense. His use of other people’s words, they say, merely puts him in the folk-blues tradition, wherein the line between love and theft is so thin that if it were a man Dylan would’ve called him “Mr. Jones” and written a ballad about him by now.

Still, the list of authors from whom Dylan is said to have stolen recently, even in his Chronicles Volume One memoirs, is daunting. Ovid, Jack London, Chaucer, Proust, Henry Timrod, Junichi Saga—you don’t need to go to college ’cause Dylan is the book of knowledge!

So how is it, with all of the Google-using private eyes intent on unearthing even more of Dylan’s sources, that the nearly all-pervasive plagiarizing Dylan did in “writing” the songs for Slow Train Coming (1979), Saved (1980), and Shot of Love (1981) has gone completely undetected?

I too might have remained blissfully oblivious to this stratum of Dylan’s literary offenses if I hadn’t, just a few weeks ago, found myself stuck inside a motel room with the nothing-to-read-but-the-local-phonebook blues (again). (There was, of course, a TV in the room, but I’ve always believed that sometimes you’ve got to do like Elvis did and shoot the damn thing out.) Anyway, I began going through the dresser drawers, hoping that maybe a previous tenant had left a newspaper behind, when I came upon something even better: a book.

I’d never heard of it (Holy Bible) or its author (Gideon something), but when you ain’t got nothin’ else to read, you got nothin’ to lose. So, without thinking twice, I dove in.

The title of the first section was “Genesis,” so I was expecting something about Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, maybe Steve Hackett—about anyone, in other words, but Bob Dylan. Midway through the second chapter, however, I came upon the following sentence: “And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field….” Hmmm, I thought. Where have I heard that before?

Eventually, it hit me: “Man Gave Names to All the Animals.” Track eight on Dylan’s Slow Train Coming.

At first I thought the similarity was a coincidence. Not only was there no mention of “Adam” in Dylan’s song, but Jackson Browne and Blink 182 had written entire songs mentioning “Adam” (“Song for Adam” and “Adam’s Song” respectively). So if Dylan was a plagiarist, surely they were too.

I kept reading, and for awhile everything was fine—or at least as fine as anything that’s full of lip-smackingly lowest-common-denominator sex and violence can be. (Personal to Gideon: I’m no prude, but if you ever expect Hollywood to option your work, you might want to tone down the sex and violence. The public’s tolerance of Brokeback Mountain is no guarantee that they’ll put up with filmed versions of the episodes in your book wherein the daughters of Lot get pregnant by date-raping their own father.)

Eventually, though, I got to this passage from the section called “Joshua”:

So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.

Or, as Dylan put it in Slow Train Coming’s “When He Returns,” “The strongest wall will crumble and fall to a mighty God.”

Oh, no, I thought. Tell me that it isn’t true.

I shut Holy Bible. Then I opened it again. Repeatedly. At random. In a section called “Ezekiel” I read “[A]nd I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh” and heard Shot of Love’s “Property of Jesus” (“You’ve got a heart of stone”). In another section (“Ephesians”) I read “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against … spiritual wickedness in high places” and heard Slow Train Coming’s “Precious Angel” (“Now there’s spiritual warfare, flesh and blood breaking down”). In yet another (“1 Corinthians”) I read “[Charity] beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” and heard Shot of Love’s “Watered-Down Love” (“Love that’s pure hopes all things, / believes all things, won’t pull no strings…”).

By the time I quit playing Spot the Plagiarism, I’d found over fifty passages in Holy Bible that were suspiciously similar to lyrics I'd long assumed Dylan had come up with on his own. Some of the similarities were admittedly tenuous (cf. “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron…” [“Psalms]” and “The iron hand, it ain’t no match for the iron rod” [“When He Returns”]; “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” [“Matthew”] and “Try to be pure in heart, they arrest you for robbery” [“The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar”]). Others, however, indeed the majority, were nearly identical.

The album on which Dylan did the most verbatim stealing was Saved. The title track alone has four offending passages: “By His spirit I’ve been sealed” (Dylan), “[I]n whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise…” (“Ephesians”); “I’ve been saved / by the blood of the lamb” (Dylan), “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony…” (“Revelation”); “He bought me with a price” (Dylan), “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit…” (“1 Corinthians”); and “Not by works / but by faith in Him who called” (Dylan), “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (“Ephesians”).

But the song “Pressing On” has just as many such passages (e.g., “Well I’m pressing on / to the higher calling of my Lord” [Dylan] and “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” [“Philippians”]), as does “Are You Ready?” (e.g., “Will He know you when He sees you, / or will He say, ‘Depart from Me’?” [Dylan] and “[T]hen will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” [“Matthew”]). And two other Saved songs, as you can see from the tables below, have even more. (Click to enlarge.)

Oh yeah, I almost forgot—Dylan also plagiarized from Julia Ward Howe (Dylan: “Are you ready for that terrible swift sword” [“Are You Ready?”]?; Howe: “He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword…” [“The Battle Hymn of the Republic”]), Martin Luther (Dylan: “Satan got you by the heel, there’s a bird’s nest in your hair” [“Dead Man, Dead Man”]; Luther: “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair"), and the songwriting team of Joel Hirschhorn and Al Kasha (Dylan: “I believe in you even on the morning after. / Oh, when the dawn is nearing, / oh, when the night is disappearing…” [“I Believe in You”]; Hirschhorn/Kasha: “There's got to be a morning after / if we can hold on through the night” [“The Morning After”]).

I know what you’re thinking: Has Dylan no dignity? Is there no limit to the stickiness of his lyric-writing fingers? As a loyal Dylan fan, I started to think up excuses. Life is hard, I reasoned. Besides, in his busy schedule there’s often simply no time to think--of original lyrics or anything else. Or perhaps he simply no longer trusts himself. Heck, maybe he doesn’t even know he’s using other people’s words. It’s obvious, after all, that he truly loves the phrases (he wouldn’t use them otherwise), and true love does tend to forget.

But, lo and behold, just when I thought I was on the verge of being able to justify what I’d found as “poetic license” (some of it, not all of it), I discovered the worst plagiarism of all.

At first “A Satisfied Mind,” the lead track on Saved, set off no alarms, probably because its lyrics didn't overlap with Holy Bible. But I soon realized the reason they didn't: All of its lyrics come from a song with the exact same title by Red Hayes and Jack Rhodes!

Obviously, after having gotten away with his teenaged stealing of “Little Buddy” from Hank Snow (whose material was quite well known), Dylan figured he’d have no trouble getting away with stealing a song from two songwriters few people had ever heard of (cf. Hirschhorn/Kasha).

And, equally obviously, Dylan was wrong. But we can’t, in good conscience, say we weren’t warned. “People don’t do what they believe in,” he sang in “Brownsville Girl.” “They just do what’s most convenient. Then they repent.” And in “Positively 4th Street,” “If I was a master thief, perhaps I’d rob them.” Is it his fault we weren’t listening?

No. But it is his fault that he put other people’s words in his own mouth, copyrighted them as his own, and was therefore complicit in letting entire generations think that in those words we were seeing the real him at last and that his ghost was more real and genuine than all the dead souls on the boob tube.

Unbelievable? Not really. Can I forgive him? I don't want to do it, but maybe. Someday. Until then, though, toleration of the unacceptable still leads to the last round-up, and this is one new pony who plans to make like all the wild horses as long as he can fox-trot, lope, and pace.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


As published in the Illinois Entertainer sometime in late 1994 or early 1995...

Charles Mingus once wrote a song called "All the Things You Could Be By Now If Sigmund Freud's Wife Was Your Mother."

Now, thirty-four years later, the twenty-three-year-old hip-hop artist known as Lucas is a prime example of all the things you could be if your father was a playwright, Tin Pan Alley songwriter, and former editor of Billboard and if your mother was an artist who frequently traveled the world with you in tow.

"She used to travel and exhibit her work," Lucas recalls. "She wanted to spend her money on traveling instead of on other things. So we traveled about four times a year, across different continents and different cultures. And we lived in different places, like London, Venice, and France. I went to Africa, too. So the metaphor of motion has always been in my past."

Obviously, Lucas--née Lucas Secon--experienced a different sort of upbringing than Snoop Doggy Dogg or Warren G did. With his racially diverse background (Lucas's dad was "an American of Russian-Jewish extraction"), his financial security, and his awareness that it's a small world after all, Lucas is easily the least stereoptypical rapper to enjoy success since Vanilla Ice.

The success he's enjoyed so far stems from "Lucas with the Lid Off," the first single from his Big Beat/Atlantic debut, Lucacentric. The song revolves around a sample from Benny Goodman's "When Buddha Smiles" and thereby not only avoids the melodic monotony of most rap but also proves that the Swing Era wasn't named the “swing” era by accident. Atop Goodman’s riffs, Lucas scat-raps: "Whatever bubbles bubbles up. / Everybody's got the lid on tightly / afraid of what might be lurking right behind the knot of safety ... look up and let / whatever bubbles up out your head / spread the vibes and illuminate the sky."

Or, as Madonna (or the La Leche League) might put it, express yourself.

Lucas believes so strongly in himself as a wellspring of creativity that he's named his production company Whatever Bubbles Bubbles Up Productions. He even uses the sentence to begin his answer to the inevitable question about what he means by the term "metaphor of motion."

"Whatever bubbles bubbles up," he responds. "Water is natural motion. You can't suppress that. It keeps coming. It's what reflects what's natural inside you. You can't hold that back. You try to hold it down like water, and it comes up between your fingers. That's, like, the ultimate--your own identity."

Despite the airplay generated by "Lucas with the Lid Off" ("It went to twenty-something on the charts and has sold about 200,000," Lucas notes), what really got the song noticed was its video, a video for which motion was anything but a metaphor. Rolling Stone devoted an entire article to it, calling it a "disorienting roller-coaster ride where the viewer is never sure which way is up." Meanwhile, speaking of Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger recently called "Lid Off" his favorite current song.

Nevertheless, Lucas has no intention of milking "Lid Off" as a Swing-meets-hip-hop novelty record and then resting on his laurels. He already has big plans for single number two.

"'Wau Wau Wau' is a cool record," he enthuses. "We have some really nice mixes, and the girl from Incognito--who are probably the most successful acid-jazz band in the world--came and sang on the remix. There'll be about six mixes on the single, so it should be good."

As for what the phrase "wau wau wau" really means--"It's a drunk message a friend of mine left on my answering machine. I decided it was so strange I had to put it in the chorus. And it kind of sums up a triple frustration--wau wau wau. It's like a non-lyrical lyric."

If nothing else, the song should teach Lucas's friends to be careful when phoning.

"Exactly. They could be the author of my next hit."

Lucas also plans to release "Spin the Globe," a continent-spanning rap tribute to world music, replete with verses in Spanish, French, and African and Indian languages. Considering Lucas's globe-trotting wonder years, he's the perfect--perhaps the only--rapper capable of making such a song work. Besides, it's about time radio turned lyrics like "ogara pi ma lokirika, sii ta ku" and "bu ved du at jeg folger mit instinkt" into pop-cultural mantras.

While no other tracks on Lucacentric match the singles’ sheer catchiness, several stand out because of their lyrics' emphasis on the dehumanizing aspects of the recording industry. "Stratusphere" parts one and two, "Livin' In a Silicone Dream," and "In It for the Lifelong" consist of raps that sound like pep talks from Lucas-the-bubbly-celebrity to Lucas-the-barely-old-enough-to-drink- mannish-boy.

"And you can't mention 'Silicone Dream' without mentioning 'Inflatable People,' " Lucas points out. He's referring to the Lucacentric track that begins "This is a song about the industry / and also about relationships / and about life."

Why did he choose "silicone" as his overriding metaphor for star-machine corruption?

"Because of what women use silicone for, to receive the idealized form of beauty in their own minds that they'll never be able to achieve. You know, the instant-gratification society that we live is not only physical, but it's emotional as well: emotional instant gratification."

Translation: "Don't bubble up whatever doesn't bubble up."

As for the self-directed pep talks, Lucas believes he has reason to feel confident about the role he'll play in the ongoing story of hip-hop.

"There's nothing [else] like 'Lucas With the Lid Off.' There's not a record like 'Spin the Globe' that exists right now that I know of. So as far as I know, the whole global fusion is unique in rap. That's my contribution."

That and pulling the lid off a fountain of verbal, musical, and rhythmic vigor that won't easily be put back on.