BUCK 65 at the Mod Club Theatre (722 College), Tuesday (July 12). $16.50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
As I write this, the sweeping strings of The Floor on Buck 65's new record, Secret House Against The World, are flooding the room.
"My personal sense of romance, nostalgia and beauty has changed. I'm sure that'll be reflected in the writing," he said about the LP while working on it in Paris last summer.
Though it's got some over-ambitious missteps (the "sexe, cinema, politique" refrain on Le 65isme we could do without), I'm getting a definite feeling that this album will wind up on multiple best-of-05 lists. There's no reason for me to lie. Actually, if this were a few years ago and I could read all the nice things I'm saying about Buck 65's music today, I'd probably puke.
I used to hate "Stinkin'"Rich Terfry's music so much, I can even remember where I first experienced it: a few years ago, when The Wedge played the video for Pants On Fire. My only thought then was "Who the shit is this loser trying to be a rapper? He's not even trying to affect a black accent." His albums sounded muddy and Legend Of Sam McGee-ish.
As Buck 65 (who recently got off tour with Moby) spent the next few years cultivating his spoken-word blues style into the most distinct alternative to Canada's lacklustre rap stars, I started disliking him on a more complex level. I noticed how Tom Waits-derivative he was, and even perfected a Buck 65 imitation that to this day no one can appreciate because no one I know listens to him.
I also thought that as a rap outsider, his growling, KRS-like hiphop piousness on record and in interviews (most notoriously and recently, last year in Kerrang!, where he was quoted saying he'd be surprised if any rappers could read music) was out of line.
By 03, a lot had changed. Warner signed him and made him drop his most accessible album - the Juno-winnin' Talkin' Honky Blues. I think the key to THB's success in Canada and France, where he moved, is that it met people halfway. While underground and mainstream rap's evolutions both seemed at a standstill, Talkin' Honky Blues' purist style, focused themes and re-sampled live instruments distilled Buck 65 into something refreshingly unique. While it's all beats and rhymes, the album was rock-rap in the most heartfelt sense.
Secret House Against The World is the next logical step. It's dark, delicate and lush - expensive-sounding. Members of Tortoise and Tara White from Elevator appear on it. When I spoke to Buck 65 last year (like, the fifth time I interviewed him), he growled about dealing with French audiences.
"I thought, 'Most of the words are going to be lost completely. How do I entertain these people?'"
His answer this time around, beyond the artistic about-face, is by singing in French. It's the same move Feist made with her last album, after she moved to Paris.
I think Buck 65 is conscious of the Feist effect: we tend to like music that's been exported back to us. It's like a postcard from an old pal - or at least someone you've buried the hatchet with.