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Are Yahu Serious?

Posted: May 7, 2006

By Kevin Forest Moreau, Editor-in-Chief

You know what? It's been too quiet around here lately. Largely, that's my fault. Not too long ago, the first-floor condo I live in sustained some severe water damage, the result of a couple of inept movers who first managed to break an overhead water sprinkler, sending water down into our unit, and then later brilliantly unhooked the upstairs neighbors' washer and dryer without making sure the water was turned off. Sadly, I had to get rid of a lot of damaged stuff -- including, unfortunately, tons of CDs submitted to us for review by hopeful young bands and PR companies. So if you've sent a CD to us for possible review and haven't seen it on the site, now you probably know why. On top of which, my time has been split between my demanding day job, an important freelance assignment I'll probably talk about later, and house-related issues.

Well, I can't definitively say that the era of quiet is over, but I'm certainly going to make a little noise right here and now. There's a certain popular artist I've been wanting to talk about for a couple of months now, and after catching last night's episode of Saturday Night Live, there's another act I need to get off my chest. So here goes -- are your seatbelts buckled? Let the vitriol commence!

Matisyahu: This immodest yahoo's latest album, Youth, went gold last month, making it his second record -- after 2005's Live At Stubb's -- to do so in a four-month period. And of course this had nothing to do with the novelty factor of an Orthodox Jewish dancehall reggae singer who drops religious references with a fervor that would make Casting Crowns blush, right? Please. Oh, no, you see, it's the way his band blends reggae with jam-band rock -- like that's a good thing? Are you kidding me? Like 311 isn't bad enough? Jeez.

I wonder if the thousands of young college girls who've helped ol' Matthew rake in the dough realize that his religion forbids him to come into any physical contact with them -- poor Matisyahu had to give up stage-diving for fear that he might land on a woman! That same religion doesn't believe women should sing or perform in public -- not that that kept Matisyahu from performing at the Coachella festival, which also played host to the likes of Madonna and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Nothing against Orthodox Judaism, but there are some faiths that are just incompatible with rock culture. Is someone trying to have it both ways, or what?

To make matters worse, before he converted, this Matthew Miller was a secular kid who dropped out of school to follow Phish on tour. (If there's a clearer reason to stay in school and avoid drugs, I haven't heard it.)

Admittedly, if you can get past the religious posturing, "King Without A Crown" is an okay-sounding song. Even the most misguided concept can yield a halfway-decent song, as 311 proved with the moderately rocking "Down" (if you can get past the unintentionally hilarious rapping by that band's high-pitched rapper-dude). But let's recognize this Matisyahu character for what he is: just the latest in a long line of white guys co-opting a black musical form to make a buck off of gullible white kids who're too put off by the ethnicity of the genre's true practitioners.

As Fred Toucher, a former Atlanta radio DJ, puts it on his website: "ARTISTS HAVE BEEN RELEASING "DANCEHALL" RECORDS FOR 30+ YEARS THAT SOUND EXACTLY THE SAME AS MATISYAHU AND THEY DON'T EVEN SELL THEM IN AMERICAN RECORD STORES! ... Why did it take a goofy Jewish kid to make it ok for you to buy a dancehall album(?) ... This is why music sucks now. People need some retarded gimmick to even give music a chance." Succinctly put.

Real Hard Chili Poopers: I've never gotten this band -- some of its early stuff was admittedly fun, once or twice, but most of its output is aggressively unlistenable.

Their performance of current single "Dani California" on Saturday Night Live last night only underlined my utter amazement that anyone considers them one of the best rock bands extant today. All four members writhed and gyrated with 120-mph abandon -- as they performed/lip-synced to a song that lopes along at about 30 mph (if that). Flea, especially, seemed to be playing another song entirely.

As for the song itself, the verses and choruses just don't fit together -- they sound like they were pasted together via ProTools. And they're just not that memorable. And let's not even get into the lyrics. The Red Hot Chili Peppers' moment is up, and their second song last night offered a glimmer of promise that they're beginning to realize this: With a new double-album to promote, they devoted their second slot to "Give It Away" from 1991's Blood Sugar Sex Magik. C'mon, guys, are you saying that none of the other 27 songs on your new release are memorable enough to drive SNL viewers to the record store? Talk about a vote of no confidence.

At best, this band should be a stalwart of the college-town club scene. The fact that they're millionaires taken seriously by the masses and the critical press is a lamentably bad joke.

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Archived Editorials
December 03, 2006: Happy Feet
November 22, 2006: Half Decade Anniversary
October 07, 2006: Jessica Simpson
September 30, 2006: New Orleans and SNL
June 2, 2006: Dixie Chicks
May 7, 2006: Are Yahu Serious?
February 16, 2006: Bill O'Reilly & Brokeback Mountain
February 12, 2006: Totally '80s (Grammys)
January 31, 2006: Freyed Oprah
November 27, 2005: To Be Continued... (Bringing back movie serials)
November 21, 2005: Fourth Birthday
November 05, 2005: TV Remakes
August 13, 2005: Ten Commandments of Rock
July 05, 2005: Live 8
May 05, 2005: Term Limits (for Rock Stars)
April 29, 2005: Pearl Jam Redux
January 26, 2005: Oscar Grouching
October 31, 2004: Three More Years!
September 27, 2004: Cleaning Out My Closet
August 25, 2004: Shaking Through Mailbag
June 23, 2004: Summer Reading List
June 11, 2004: World Without Heroes (Bill Murray and Garfield)
April 23, 2004: Sold Out (Bob Dylan, Victoria's Secret, & Iraq)
April 08, 2004: The Day the Music Died (Kurt Cobain)
Mar. 17, 2004: Copping Out
Feb. 27, 2004: The Passion of Howard Stern
Jan. 30, 2004: Sex and the City
Nov. 17, 2003: California Über Alles
Nov. 7, 2003: Not-So-Terrible Twos
Sept. 19, 2003: Magic & Loss (Johnny Cash and Warren Zevon)
Aug. 17, 2003: Those '70s Shows
May 27, 2003: Patriot Games (Darryl Worley)
May 24, 2003: American Idol
Mar. 23, 2003: Non-cents-ical (Dixie Chicks-50 Cent)
Feb. 8, 2003: Where's the Love? (Pearl Jam)
Jan. 1, 2003: High Resolutions
Dec. 16, 2002: All I Want for Christmas
Nov. 27, 2002: Things to be Thankful For
Nov. 8, 2002: Near Wild Heaven (Nirvana)
Oct. 21, 2002: Happy Birthday to Us
Sept. 11, 2002: The Little Things
Aug. 20, 2002: King for a Day
July 9, 2002: Bill of Rights
Apr. 18, 2002: Celebrity Skim
Apr. 15, 2002: We Will Never Lie To You
Jan. 6, 2002: Something to Believe In
Nov. 3, 2001: Who We Are