Monday, June 29, 2009

Album Review: The Paxtons putting in the Work...

Overall GPA: 3.0
Category I: Artistry (B)
Category II: Wordplay (C+)
Category III: Beat Chemistry (A)
Category IV: Relativity Factor (B-)

Click the link for an explaination of the Glass House Review system.

The Paxton’s website, “describes its sound [as] characterized by massive arrangements, profound lyricism, pop sensibil[i]ty, and an unwavering love for the ‘hood. With influences ranging from New Jack Swing to Chicago House, expect nothing more than an emphasis on quality music that resonates as a soundtrack for everyday life.” The Paxton’s debut album, Work, was composed by Chris Butler and Dave Giles from Chicago. This labor of love (and lust), a euphemism for many things, undoubtedly gets its inspiration from the Kevin Smith film, Clerks, but also refers to the effort we put into getting it in and, well, out in every sense of the phrase. Often times, we see ourselves differently than how others see us, or in this case hear us, but The Paxtons weren’t too far off in their self-analysis.

Let us not make any bones about it; this is a producer’s album. For those starving for lyricism, this is a 101 course, but for beat chemistry, you’ll need a pre-requisite to really hear The Paxtons. In each track it’s quite evident that extreme detail was paid to production. It’s as if The Paxtons were two plastic surgeons hovering over old school beats tweaking, lipo-suctioning, and tightening them up for Work. There aren’t many able to weave in samples and measures to replace pregnant pauses the way The Paxtons do it. Check for samples of Ghost Town DJ’s “My Boo,” “Winter Sadness,” by Kool and the Gang, “Take You Home,” by Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, and a host of others. Tracks of note are “Just Tonight” featuring a dope collab with DC’s infamous RaTheMC. RaTheMC brings it, as always, delivering a verse characteristic of her amazing lyrical abilities. “Free My Mind 09,” “Theme Music,” “Still Waiting,” and “Instant Love,” are other tracks you’ll want to hear.

Building an album around production leaves a bit of a gap when it comes to lyricism. There were a handful of tracks that bludgeoned listeners with the same sexual references typical of hip hop. Due to their Work-aholic/perfectionist nature, there is no doubt The Paxtons’ rap game will get better—and a bit o’ profoundness is evident in tracks like “Free My Mind.” The Paxtons rap, “I fantasize like what if I didn’t have to worry about the way the world is going, rent checks steady coming. . .counting all the foreclosures, something tells me that Obama ain’t the only one hoping. Let’s keep it all in focus, the hood is like an opus..” When the duo departs from the norm, they give listeners a glimpse of society that needs to be exposed, making “Free My Mind” a springboard into dialogue about economic and educational disparities in communities of color of the inner city. Another piece, “Still Waiting,” serves as a summary metaphor for The Paxtons’ flee from Chicago in search of greener pastures of St. Louis, and now Washington, DC. The track continues to describe the parts of the Windy City both lamented and not, but the message is extremely clear: Work was manufactured on the east coast, but the Midwest still has their hearts.

When in Rome, they say do as Romans do, but The Paxtons distinctly defy this saying. The truth is, there aren’t many artists in DC doing things the way The Paxtons are doing it, and this simple fact is what allows them an edge in the local industry. This declaration of distinction neither begins nor ends here in DC. Work, intended to tell the story of The Paxtons’ summer, ends up telling more about the Paxtons’ journey. Every good epic involves a hero, challenges, revelations, but most importantly a return home that is full of acceptance. If Chris and Dave are able to find the production-lyricism balance and keep making music like this for the airwaves, the return to Paxton Avenue will no doubt be on their own terms.

“Keeping the cursor blinking and the pen bleeding…”

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