I once overheard a friend talking to another friend about a band. I butted in:
“Who are you talking about?”
“You wouldn’t like them.”
“You don’t like anything.”
Now, while I can confidently say she was not 100% correct, she was definitely not 100% wrong either. In particular, I have a very low tolerance for insincerity in music. Knowing that Handsome Boy Modeling School had an underpinning of tongue-in-cheek concept brought them dangerously close to being dismissed before things even before things got underway. I was determined to give them a fair shake however, and am happy to report they beat the odds, for the most part.
I was a big consumer of hip hop in the late 80s, which I still sort of see as a golden age. This isn’t just an old man’s nostalgia, just before artists were forced to pay for samples, technology had just reached a point where the music could be layered thick with them. Not coincidentally, De La Soul’s first LP fits nicely into this genre. Prince Paul was in fact one of the aspects of Handsome Boy Modeling School that seemed a redeeming factor for me. Anyway, musically I found the album to echo this time period in good ways. Whereas much modern hip hop has a thick beat and maybe a sample or two behind it, this record had some of the thickness and depth a lot of modern stuff is lacking. While the album hasn’t made me go out of my head like I used to, I realize I rarely get that sensation from any music anymore. So overall, me not hating it on first listen can be counted as a good sign.
One thing I do have to say about the record is that it seems like it was probably a difficult one to market. It definitely doesn’t jibe with modern hip hop. I never listen to the radio anymore so I can’t be sure but I suspect that smart, idiosyncratic and nuanced are still not attributes that garner lots of airplay. It reminded me of the “O Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack which sold millions of copies but was largely absent from radio because it defied easy classification. I may be totally wrong though, it could have been a radio smash and I’d be none the wiser.
P.S. Chris Elliott references and Father Guido Sarducci are only pluses.
Rating: 4 out of 5