Welcome Back To The Same Old Me
As many of them do, this one floated in from basically nowhere. And upon first impression, what misery: The plain cerulean-hued cover emblazoned with the title, Welcome Back To The Same Old Me, under some guy’s name suggested just another “solo” dude from some nameless Michigan blip who probably did time in some dumb band that nobody’s ever heard of, or would ever care to. A record that nobody anywhere will ever, ever give a flying fuck about aside from the usual nucleus of trained recruits (sympathetic girlfriend/wife, empathetic mom, concerned pop, or, perhaps, a lovely prepubescent daughter whose self-involved musician father can do little more than fill her head with pie-in-the-sky promises).
Just what we need, yes? Another “songwriter” manifesting an exaggerated sense of his own merit with a disc crammed with poorly expressed remembrances — somebody’s goddamned nostalgia — and truckloads of personal demons dumped to disc as if some music fan would actually care. Blah.
Well, fuck me. Never again am I gonna rip on a record before ever actually playing the thing.
How wrong was I? Very.
See, as it turns out, this guy David Manchel is a student of great songwriters, a student of great songs. So much so that he approaches both with a careful eye and considerate sense of time and place. What’s more, he understands that everything in rock ’n’ roll’s been done already, so he’s purposely backdated.
Yes, this guy Manchel is a confessed Who fan (check the riff-riddled Who winks on “Dear Mr. Townshend”), but “She’s Cruel” could be the Shoes. Fey power pop, then? Yeah, sometimes … but, like the Shoes, it’s done in a handsome, anachronistic way. Some songs have an innocent whimsy so twee that a light breeze off the Detroit River might blow them away, while others have the rigid pop command one might expect from Pete Yorn.
“Re-arranging Me” would edge Rundgren’s “Hello It’s Me,” nicely on a mix disc, whereas “I’ve Been Gone (A Long, Long Time)” would’ve trumped “I Am A Rock” as best tune on Paul Simon’s ill-advised The Paul Simon Songbook. No shit. Also, “Just a Girl” has all these cool Pete Townshend chords and tone changes that mask precious lines (“Captures my heart with fervent joy”), which can be forgiven, ’cause, as stated in the bio, some of these tunes were written years ago, when, we presume, Manchel was a pup.
Opener “Tonight We Go to the Show” is a wedge of live-for-today power-pop jollity that takes an XTC turn here and a Records turn there (in fact, the Townshend-y acoustic ta-dum strums on the outro dittos that of the Records’ diabetic-coma chestnut “Hearts in Her Eyes”). That quixotic spin is nipped quickly by “Diggin’ Our Own Holes” a back-to-reality slice of droney hooks bookended by the sound of shoveled gravel and dirt. The persuasive, goosebumpy “Bad Boy” is so gentle a turn that Stephan Duffy would be proud. Complete with tambourine slaps, half-time beats on bridges, strategically timed pauses, four-note guitar line roundelays and sugar-on-top harmonies, Welcome Back To The Same Old Me — dubious title aside — sounds like a record that this guy had to make. Even better, Manchel’s voice is, in fact, listenable, bristly and tender.
Recorded ably, this self-produced disc sees all instruments, save drums, played by Manchel himself, which is the disc’s only Achilles heel — a cohesive band might’ve served the songs better.
I saw a photo of this guy and he bears a slight resemblance to David Duchovny, and, oh, ah, fuggit … just listen to the record instead. Find it at davidmanchel.com.
No artist listed
Fuck Proof Vol. 1
No label listed
The art of the dis. A few weeks ago a FedEx priority overnight package arrived here sent from a local address. It contained a single CD-R with the words “Fuck Proof” scrawled on the CD’s top face. The return address listed a guy called Dr. Detroit.
Well, rap feuds are certainly nothing new. (Hell, they’re downright yawn-inducing at this point.) And D12 man Proof has seen a few of late. Remember the weapon-wielding fracas that saw both Royce da 5’9” and Proof share a sleepover in the downtown clink? Or what about 5 Ella, Proof’s old mates? They called the MC a crybaby. Or the Proof and radio DJ Spudd fisticuffs that reportedly left splintered limbs? Yeah, we remember. What’s more, there seems to be mounting resentment toward Proof on the streets of Detroit, and the tension is tangible.
At the very least, Proof has finally tasted real success with D12’s chart-hogging D12 World. That might have something to do with all of this. What was that line that Morrissey cribbed from Oscar Wilde that had to do with us hating it when our friends become famous?
Anyway, of course we’re gonna listen to this CD-R. And why not? The disc — made up of six short tracks and skits — is crammed with the kind whiney pee-pants vitriol that has us bustin’ guts. The dis scales the heights of putridity, running the feces gamut of racism, sexism, porn and horse dong. Yee haw!
The emcee on the recordings, who claims to be one-time Proof mentor, Em producer and old-school Detroit rapper Champtown, simply rips Proof up one side and down the other, then back up again. It’s a skewering that is inescapably scathing, and, at times, admittedly, funny. Atop thin beats using rather clever rhyme schemes and gutter-worthy spits, we hear this guy Champtown accuse Proof of all sorts of ungainly practices — sexual, psychopharmaceutical and such.
It goes on: “Remember nigger, you swung the first punch … You a disgrace to the black race, you make us all look so bad out there, jumping around like a muthafuckin’ kangaroo … Hype man for the white man, that’s all you is muthafucka,” and so forth. By the end we learn that Champtown has plans to finish off Proof’s career, before chirping, “Wait what a minute, he never had a career!”
On one track — there are no titles listed — the rapper mocks Proof’s voice to the melody of D12’s “My Band” that he’s “broke as shit … What’s goin’ on? Em got money! … Proof so broke he can’t buy a muthafuckin’ taco from Taco Bell.”
By the end we learn Champtown has won every Motor City battle he’s been in since the early ’80s (how old is he?) and that this beef is in response to a Proof dis of Champtown that saw light on a mix CD (which might be tied to a piece in the February issue of The Source in which Champtown backed that magazine’s claims that Eminem is/was a racist). Sheesh. There are also promises here that two more similar volumes are on the way.
No word yet on what Proof’s response might be, if any. I’ll let you know. In the meantime, a walk in the garden is in order.Brian Smith is the music editor of Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org