album reviews: Back to School: LIARS, a Clik, and Your Enemies Friends

Bootcamp Clik
The Chosen Few

Duck Down Records has finally called “time,” examined their playbook, and solidified an ambitious game plan for the ’03. It’s taken their squad 11 years to do so, but that’s moot, because Bootcamp Clik’s The Chosen Few, their second LP, is a thorough crew album destroying systems when hip hop posses are too busy doloing (Wu-tang) or practicing hopscotch and playing with Barbie (Jurassic 5).
BCC, a collective featuring rappers Tek and Steele (Cocoa Brovaz), Buckshot (Black Moon), Starang Wondah and Louieville Sluggah (O.G.C), Top Dogg, and Sean Price, have weathered constant label woes (Rawkus, Priority, etc), wives and kids, and the Ja Rule-era and reached pay dirt unscathed. From the tip-off with “And So” (with a soulfully consistent beat from Curt Cazal), The Chosen Few sounds familiar – not due to gangsta banality, but because it’s provincially street like blacktops and bodegas.
Lyrically, the disc’s topics never reach for the sky: repping Duck Down, figurative/literal debts, drugs, loyalty, women – but each MC hones a flow that adds to the deep-end and commixes smoothly across the boards. Two of the strongest bangers, “Welcome to Bucktown USA” and the title track, are laced by rookie producer Coptic, the latter track utilizing a sample also heard on Talib Kweli’s “Ghetto Afterlife” from Reflection Eternal – a rare case for beat recycling. The overall production is dead on, with the Alchemist and Da Beatminerz netting one after another, but Hi Tek throws up a brick on the it-must-be-a-nightmare track “Ice Skate.” The hook: “It’s on you if you wanna hate/you can ice skate/but you don’t hold no weight/this is how we do around here.” So bad it justifies trading Hi Tek to the Lakers.
Opting to go independent (via Koch distribution) was the proper move for Bootcamp and Duck Down Records, with Cocoa Brovaz’ Still Shining and Sean Price’s Monkey Bars entering the draft later this year. Hip hop fans who lament over glossy singles with R&B hooks can relax, put this on, and have their expectations met – Bucktown style.
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Your Enemies Friends
The Wiretap E.P.

Your Enemies Friends’s modus operandi is likeably, but also legitimately dark, similar to Nirvana or the Smashing Pumpkins circa “Bullet with Butterfly Wings.” They compose rock that damns the fruity robotic spiders and stalactite soul patches of nu metal (and easy college girls dressing like Avril Levigne). Backed by the tree-lighting shit talkers at (Buddyhead Records, actlikeyouknow), this quintet will transport you to the cherished suicidal high school days of rock, with equal doses maturity and style.
Keyboardist Aska Matsumyia electrifies the first track, “A Life Without a Heart” with a deviant, cartoonish keyboard loop before Ronnie Washburn’s screaming vocals flat-line into “Are you awake/We are awake” and collide into a lengthy hook of addiction. On the third track, “This is Disconnect,” bassist/vocalist Dana James sounds like Veruca Salt gobbling amphetamines as she races through single words of destruction with doomed punk flare.
The closing track of this impressively reckless but non-sloppy EP is the somber anti-ballad “Your Enemies are Your Enemies Friends.” It offers a glimpse at the talent and range running through this music’s veins, with plenty of fire left for an entire LP (coming later this year from producer Steve Albini). Instead of piling into a tired, played-out genre of rock, Your Enemies Friends rip it original over six tracks of drilling acceleration. Disregard the CD’s all black packaging – this isn’t Spinal Tap and it’s not weird-ass backwoods death metal.
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Fins to Make Us More Fish-like [EP]
Choosing to lure extra dough (living in ever-hip Brooklyn is expensive, you know) from scenesters with this $8 three song EP, LIARS strut past the glowing rubble of praise coating their debut LP, They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top, to offer some expensive, albeit tasty crumbs of splatterhouse dance punk.
“Pillars Were Hollow and Filled with Candy” dodges the foil-like sputtering of drums and the siren of an electronic toy from the ’80s, while Angus Andrew’s distorted vocals burn like Jiffy Pop. “Pillars” is as danceable as any song on their LP (also extending their Eclat for dope song titles) and proof that LIARS can pump out jams until the rooster gets hit by a taxi.
Wasting your money is the second track, “Everyday is a Child with Teeth,” a broken bridge of noise that is challenging to cross the first time, but laborsome after you master it. The demanding lyrics, “Be like a boy, dance like a girl/Dance like a girl, be like a boy,” sell androgyny like an afterthought, which it is fast becoming.
For $8, this CD isn’t worth purchasing, unless you’re a music fiend, don’t drink, and/or dad’s rich, with the third track being an alternative rendition of “Grown Men Don’t Fall in the River, Just Like That” – a song that appeared on They Through Us All… This track (arguably LIARS’ signature) lacks zero the charm and badabing of the original – it just got a haircut and some wrinkles ironed out.
Overall: buy their debut and burn this one, or burn both if the recession has you down – we get these CDs for free regardless.

Hunter Stephenson can be reached at