Living with…Public Enemy…for a week
No history here with Public Enemy so should this be interesting! Allegedly, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back is one of those definitive albums of the 80s, and I was after ones that I’ve never heard before.
Hip-hop for me is something that happens on the radio or passing cars rather than being played on my CD player, and can even provoke a change of channel if I’m not in the right mood. My only hip-hop clubbing experience follows a rather druken bet and a visit to a Swiss club in a mountain resort, right next to the village police station, so chances are it was pretty tame. And the enduring memory is of a young lad with a pair of very baggy trousers that fell down on the stage much to our hilarity, and a band rapping in German, which actually quite suits the genre. So why choose to spend the week with Public Enemy? Don’t know yet, maybe I’ll know by the end of the week…
And…some days later…I sort of like it, sort of get it. Spending a week with Public Enemy for the first time is never going to be easy. The music’s great – its loud, its aggressive. It whines and wails and throbs at you. They tantalise you with brief samples that you half recognise. You find yourself ‘getting in to it’. The lyrics are half what you expect, half you don’t – the usual ‘rock’ topics of how no one understands me, the self proclamations of PE and Terminator X. And then layered on that the issues – ‘being black’, the violence, the posturing and the frustration that the world doesn’t move on, its held back in the prejudices and values of the past. Like the Rolling Stones but different.
Each morning after the car journey in, I found myself just that little edgier, little more irritable with the world. Dissatisfied. Maybe it was Public Enemy, maybe it was the onset of a cold.
So had to take a comfort break halfway through the week as the cold moved in to my head. When I have a cold, I need comfort food, comfort drink and comfort music. Public Enemy isn’t the latter, so a brief break spending time with the Pink Panther’s Penthouse Party was just what the doctor ordered – some enhanced and vamped up Mancini to soothe the soul.
But then I wanted to go back – I missed them! Favourite song? Night of the Living Baseheads…anti-drugs but not in a naff way and love the sampling. So will I come back and revisit Public Enemy? Yes…give me the right mood. This is not the album for Christmas morning, or to be comforted. But it was interesting to spend time with what is clearly a brilliant album, and they can come back again, maybe give me a few weeks to recover. That’ll be from the cold as well…