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Wednesday January 17, 2001

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Got It Made

(Wiiija/Beggars Group)

Grade: B-

Who slipped England the Prozac? The country's music used to be as bleak as its rainy landscape, characterized by mopey groups like Oasis and the Cure. Some of this music was exceptional - the Smiths, for instance, wrote dozens of well-crafted pop gems. But even the fast-paced fare was hide-the-razor-blades music - suicide notes disguised as songs. In recent years, however, something funny has been going on - gloomy old England has finally cheered up.

Got It Made, the debut stateside release from funk-punk-hip-hop combo Brassy, is a perfect example of England's change of heart. The CD jacket, decorated in bright, day-glo colors and MTV-ready fonts, lists tracks with titles like "Play Some D" and "I Gotta Beef."

Brassy hails from Manchester, former epicenter of the shoegazer movement of the early 90s, but the band's frenetic hip-hop scratching and punchy guitars could not be further from the shoegazer's drugged-out feedback and fuzz. Vocalist Muffin Spencer - yes, Muffin - snarls like a snotty cross between Le Tigre's Kathleen Hanna and vintage Beastie Boys, tossing out disses and "I'm-the-baddest" boasts like an old-school emcee. In fact, an old-school hip-hop spirit pervades Got It Made, infusing tracks like "Parkside" and "B'Cos We Rock" with Run DMC-style beats and cheesy synth lines.

In many ways, Got It Made's snotty enthusiasm is a breath of fresh air from both its mopey English predecessors and the angry, humorless thug-rock crowding the current American charts. Unfortunately, Brassy's attitude adjustment seems to have come at the expense of substance - it would have been nice if Muffin and company took a few minutes away from "B-to-the-R-to-the-A-to-the-S-S-Y" to write some actual lyrics. Brassy proves that the English can make music you can dance to. Here's hoping the band's next outing is both meaningful and danceable.

-Phil Leckman