REVIEW: Warsawpack: Gross Domestic Product
Warsawpack: Gross Domestic Product [G7 Welcoming Committee, 2002] (mp3s)
Three words? flickerfast slash crash
Look - I tried to write it seven different ways, but the fact of the matter is that Gross Domestic Product is fresh and exciting; hip hop painted with the pungent colours of jazz, an edge that gleams in the streetlight, that cuts bone and slides between ribs. The Hamilton sevenpiece has erupted from its egg like some clawed, indigo lizard; teeth snap, tail flicks, its splayed hands scramble over brick, concrete and glass. The music is bristling - Lee Raback's wordplay dances over a sinister jazz vibe, horns skronk over rock guitar crunch and loose, funky basswork. Long silhouettes fall over each track - "Diabolique" shows a demon's laugh over the Eastern wail of sax - but despite the dark, dark groove, Warsawpack doesn't fall into the rage-for-rage's-sake inanity of Linkin Park; the band's sound is complex and evocative. Amid the gunshot funk, there's a taste of a flickering Radiohead landscape. Drums, bass and turntables spread a thick gloss of menace, flute and saxophone swirl out of the gloom and trace the sky through the stormclouds. There is no excess here - no Dave Matthews jams that overstay their welcome, no rockstar guitar solos. Aaron Sakala's turntables rise like dreams from the lyrical and musical fray: on tracks like "Ze Microfiche" he recalls Kid Koala, but like Eric San's work in Bullfrog, Sakala is capable of returning to a supporting role when so needed.
Though political motives can be for some an unpleasant intrusion, Warsawpack's message - its socially conscious heartbeat - is an invitation. Rhythmic storytelling, rallying-cry and white-toothed bite. Following the tradition of KRS-One or Chuck D, Raback throws out diatribes against greed, violence and apathy. He stares cars and smokes in the face, but never starts to lecture. Raback slips G.Love's flow into Zach de la Rocha's raging throat: he's a longlimbed ogre who stamps and roars while the rest of the band lays out a sound that is loose and smooth. Like Mike Doughty, poetry slips from his mouth like percussion, and Warsawpack often gives the impression of a very angry Soul Coughing, bursting from the ghetto with fire in its eyes.
G7 Welcoming Committee's roster of vital, politically cogent musicians is quickly making it one of Canada's best independent labels. Alongside its acclaimed punk artists (Propagandhi, International Noise Conspiracy), several new and old signees are proving that politics needn't drain an act of energy - in fact, Greg Macpherson, Warsawpack and the Weakerthans show that conscience can fuel fine, sizzling albums. Gross Domestic Product is smart as a knife, deft as a needle. It sounds air-raid sirens while the people dance, it yells a warning and invites the masses to the streets.