. issue IX : viii .
. artist : cody chestnuTT .
. album : the headphone masterpiece .
. year : 2002 .
. label : ready set go! .
. grade : a plus .
Music Videos don’t exist anymore.
A large cache of my cultural education was spent memorizing and plotting along with the inspired random short vignettes that presented a bacchanalian collage of fashion, youth, and sunlight with an apollonian attention to categoric consumption. I’ll never forget the short films I scored over my BMG and Columbia House savant sales pitch summer of sophomore (getting the 8 free CDs up front and then having an irate parent’s complaint for a minor drop the 40 dollars required for membership [26.00 for 1 purchased CD, 14 for shipping] into a cancelled account); and the popular occupational nom d’drop of art director I carried as a personal bohemian barrier for my self, a definite painted starting line that I would never cross but could twirl my toes on.
The radio played a paltry competition with the television. Although it showed most of the same music as the videos from the ever-growing channels filtering such musical montage, it wasn’t paced at the same speed. The rush of image was perfect stimulation, and could be replicated on a smaller scale of meme-dom with the re-enforcement of the sound-tracking, or, what we could call now, a playlist. Hellraiser demon of hooks in this era; if you weren’t snagged by a song’s tone, lyrics or instruments, you could be seduced simply by the image itself and its implications. Interpretation played with individuals as always and attention spans found themselves synapsed and set into brains.
So, a few days ago when Palladia sold me a packaged version of Cody ChestnuTT’s beautiful “I’ve Been Life” video, I had no choice. I was struck dumb by the image and the familiar ritual in such an unfamiliar and creaking body of time. The recognition was instantaneous, the packaging was elaborate: and the entirety of the album The Headphone Masterpiece dominated my thoughts again after so long, so, so long ago.
I discovered ChestnuTT with The Headphone Masterpiece, a bedroom demo double album that demanded little from the listener, at a point when TRL had isolated me from my MTV and Pinfield interfered with my rehearsal schedule. A wonderful college FM WUAG did it’s work, as did the Gate City Noise, the record store within spitting distance. They praised revival and range, and I listened (Neutral Milk Hotel was one of these suggestions, not that it meme’d itself to me as the oddest of all names of all time, and a great album the likes of which felt familiar to my self and totally new to my listening). The double album has always held more appeal to me than an EP, any artist that dares to put out an amount of material stands behind the product personally, especially if they’re a single singer.
ChestnuTT’s song’s intimacy astounds and the showmanship wins through all of this varied oeuvre. Spanning “Smoke and Love” reggae relaxation, to the rap of “B-tch, I’m Broke,” balanced by the skit “Brother With an Ego” or the sappy “Somebody’s Parent,” the album features ChestnuTT spanning his own influences and inundating us with rhythms and sounds that should have been remixed as an homage album YEARS ago. (CONNOR SEZS: Kickstarter for somebody.)
Of course, Cody ChestnuTT’s lucky breaker breaker was late 2002’s Phrenology where “The Seed 2.0” did exactly that for the Roots. “Seed” is an impeccable song with a spacey chorus of wonderful words and a grand guitar funk lead behind a stairmaster bassline and cymbal crashing. These shuffling seventies AM golden frosty bottles popped open one after the next, and ChestnuTT’s easy vocals are smooth and oh so listenable, even when he is speaking some seriously sly sh-t with a straight face. (“Push my seed in her bush for life” is the titular choral refrain in “The Seed.”) “B-tch, I’m Broke” exists in an amazing universe of bright tenor megaphoning out a stained and hungry ghost over a fast swampy drum and bass: “If I got diamond rings / and eating three steaks / and then offer you a goddamned hamburger.” Comparisons to Todd Rundgren and Prince echo the singular vision and the inherent gardening and plotting of the geometric kaleidoscope of style and speed.
I always assumed ChestnuTT had settled into the sonic scape of California and become a songwriter. A musicians’ musician, offering up a bit of his unlimited skill for some small stipend.
“I’ve Been Life” features stilt performers, dressed brightly, breathing fire, and ChestnuTT in a tin soldier’s helmet and military chic. Still, it manifests his signature stringing along of incredible rhythms and landscapes of sound. So many horrible stories start off with, “Well, ya see it was a decade ago…,” and end with Wilford Brimley offering an impossible deal of never getting older or dying.
But every once in a while when you turn second star to the right at the corner of outer space nighttime and oxygeny ozoney rosey cheeks (and everything) dawn, you see, disappearing from sight, all moments.
Smile and wave.
by Perkus Tooth