As the child of Baby Boomers, I understand The Greatest Generation and its attachment to music. From the pop sounds of The Beatles to the perpetual trip that was Jefferson Airplane, our parents’ generation has countless musical acts that speak to the spirit and energy of a whole massive cross-section of the population. And while our generation has more access to greater volumes of music than those once-hippies ever had, there’s little in the way of music that speaks for Generation Y, the Millennials, the Echo Boomers. But if there’s an album that sums up this group, it’d have to be Astro Raw‘s Ooo Baby… I Like It Rawz. It’s loud, it’s obnoxious, it’s saturated in the machinations of our digital age, it rehashes hackneyed pop culture like memories of a lost love, and it can’t seem to make up its mind about who or what it is. Sound like someone you know?
Like some moody 20-something moving back in with their parents, there’s a relatability and level of attraction to many of the tracks, despite the glaringly obvious fact that these are clearly some of those most absurd musical constructs imaginable. Opening track “Army of Darkness” (you know, the classic film starring Bruce Campbell) is the shining example of the album’s sound: a background rich in breakbeat noise and soul samples, scummy lo-fi guitar, vocals via a bad Lou Reed impersonation, and enough pop culture shout-outs to embarrass Quentin Tarantino. But the results of several of the tracks are still rather fulfilling. “Bring on the Warriors” sounds like an anthem of manic hand claps, big, jagged drumline, and a distorted beam of electronic junk noise. There’s a lot sonically going to battle in “Cool Hand Luke”: a wave of eccentric noises, from bargain bin samples and beats to the hum of a basement Casio, to the drone of a standard drum machine loop, and even a bluesy guitar full of shallow existentialism, as if to question when your ex will move all her rompers out. And in the course of some six minutes, everything gets a chance to fight and share in the glow and reverb of the other corresponding noises.
Like Gen Yers, the album has a hot and heavy flirtation with rap. “JackYaBlood” features a light and breezy guitar line over a soulful pop sample that forges a kind of basement bubble gum psychedlia . Featuring the line “If she on me, I’m zombie, I’m trying to get the brain”, references to Dracula and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and a chorus of “Catch ya love, jack ya blood, Dracula, yeah, that’s what’s up”, it’s a filthy example of what I’m calling pop culture regurga-rap, an infusion of that awful Lou Reed impression doing a kind of backward mix of lo-fi hip-hop after hours spent on YouTube. Despite that sound, there’s more legit tracks in the vain of decent hip-hop. “Beauty Bounce” is the most M.I.A. sounding track of a whole album who owes its existence to the Sri Lankan songstress. Vibing with “Paper Planes”, this track’s built with lots of creepy carnival sounds, the chimes of a triangle, odd electronic refuse, and some strummy psychedelia guitar. Sadly, there’s not much of a hook as the catchy “Paper Planes”, but as an album and artist making the same kind of mutant pop/rap/electronica/whatever the fuck this is, it’s a lot more dense, more focused, and way more fulfilling than a simple pop hit.
I’ll insult this generation until I am blue in the face, mostly because we’re so deserving. But to give credit where credit is due, we’re collectively working on reaching the potential of our overly-coddled existence. And Astro Raw is on the same kind of journey. You can call it lo-fi like I’ve done, but this album is clearly of a higher level and not necessarily just lots of noise. Instead, it’s dedicated to using the parts of the sum to build layers and textures and great little musical moments. It belies something bigger under the surface without getting tied up in trying to change the world overnight. Because we all know how that optimism worked out for the Baby Boomers…
Ooo Baby.. I Like It Rawz