Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Royce - Tuff Love

Tuff Love by Royce slipped by a lot of people when it was released in the summer of 2006. The album is on the Galapagos 4 label and the Chicago outfit is remarkable for the subtlety it displays in fusing disparate elements from that city’s rich musical heritage, with soul, indie rock, IDM, hip-hop, funk and house touches rolling around each other fluidly throughout. However, the beauty is that this fusion feels effortless. It seems to translate the worlds that separate Can from the Shins and Tribe from the Sea and Cake.

Tuff Love opens with the title track and evocative lyrics like, “I lost you somewhere in the streetlights, watched your shadow in the twilight, drinking underneath the cartoon moon…” The words are draped over beats evoking classic hip-hop dovetailed with Can and early Mr. Fingers. Though this song conjures up images of past, or unrequited, love drenched in the light from street lamps, or hidden in a dark back alley; Royce are no misery merchants and this is evident on “Girls on Bikes,” a nerdy hipster retort to Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls,” with a tongue in cheek approach, hinting that the tongue would rather be in the cheek of a bike girl.

“Ebbs and Flows,” combines stripped down beats, pretty lyrics and some rapping, resembling Sam Prekop cooing over Edan's abrasive rhymes. It’s an odd but very appealing mix, with footwear ogling vocals punctuated with loose rapping because Royce doesn’t shout at you, it reels you in with a raw, yet smooth approach that nods to soul ‘70s soul jams. Track three, “Ginelle” continues with the sensual assault on your ears and mind as a loping, house style groove is added to scattered beats and the tender vocalizing that characterizes the whole record. It was probably inspired by an elfin temptress, who cycles around the streets of their neighborhood.

“Vladimir,” track six, is an inspiring amalgam of influences culled from Ashra Tempel, WBMX classics like Dharma’s “Plastic Doll,” and early AM Chicago house gear such as “Cruising” by Vincent Floyd. Then, all this is stirred into plaintive vocals that conjure up immeasurable distance and unforgettable loss. Simply put, it’s beautiful, and perfect. To call Tuff Love charming is an understatement for it sounds like The Shins and A Tribe Called Quest in a bicycle crash with Kreidler, while Larry Heard and Plaid call 911. It is groovy, psychedelic, funky, poignant and brimming with humor all at once. You can get lost in it, fall in love to it, dance around your apartment with your buddies at 3.30 AM to it and then kick back to it when you’ve finally kicked their drunk asses out. It’s really good, and even the beardy guy at Men’s Wearhouse would guarantee it.


1 comment:

djwhitelightning said...

Word Life
we are almost done with the follow up .. . get you a copy soon. . .