My parents tell me that I’ve been writing since I was in 1st grade. How much of that I believe is up for debate, but it has no doubt been a major aspect of my life for as far back as I can remember.
They’re both writers, mom and dad. My father had beatnik poetry published in the 70s, avant-garde and abstract streams of consciousness that I can’t understand – and more than 30 years later, neither can he.
I tend to believe that a lot of artistic skill is inherited. Not all of it, but a sizable portion. It’s osmosis. If you’re around someone for long enough, it’s more difficult not to pick up their characteristics and traits, or at the very worst, their tics. Same can be said for their hobbies.
I say that because, like it is with any hobby or artistic outlet, if you are like me, many years down the road one faces the inevitability of the horror and embarrassment of their early work. That much is to be expected. No one is Kerouac on their college entrance essays. Not even Jean-Louis himself.
But at some point, we “get it.” Something clicks, and we tap into the vein of creativity. We cultivate our craft and, even in those early days, there are tiny flashes of greatness. They may be few and far between, but they’re there. And with enough time, effort, missteps and failings, and yes, maybe even successes, greatness can be achieved.
For me, Astronautalis’ debut full-length You and Yer Good Ideas is something of a time-capsule; a relic of a transformative period, an album that showed great promise, and one that contains hints of the tremendous genre-bending alternative hip-hop we’ve come to expect from one Andy Bothwell.
I should say at this point that, I can’t speak for how Andy feels about You and Yer Good Ideas. I know that when I look back at things I wrote 10 years ago, I get flushed with white hot distress. But maybe that’s my own projections on this album.
This is borne out of having followed Bothwell since before this record was released. Back when he was still doing sprawling, 11-minute long freestyles and winning national battle contests, I’d venture to call his work more traditionally rap.
It is that same conventional approach to rapping that appears on much of You and Yer – which both boosts and hampers the record. At its best, tracks like “Tightrope” with its breathless, laser-tongued assault. But at its low point, songs like “I’m Never Right,” which are addled by… what, a desire to adhere to a certain archetype? A reluctance to be less “songy” and more “rappy”?
Bothwell says it best on the appropriately-titled “People Tell Me I’m Good at What I Do” –
I wanna write good songs that we all sing along to
When the lights go up and the night’s all through
The foundational basis was set with this album for Bothwell’s subsequent releases. Listen for This is Our Science in this album, and the whole of your perspective will surely change.
From You and Yer Good Ideas, this is “Tightrope” –
Standout track: “Somethin’ for the Kids” and “Tightrope” (even though it’s a sub-2 minute track) and “People Often Tell Me I’m Good at What I Do”
Weakest track: “I’m Never Right” – like a half-hearted attempt at what would become the style for much of This is Our Science
RIYL: Alternative hip-hop, alt-rap. WHY?, Beastie Boys, Gorillaz.
SIDE NOTE: I refuse to listen to listen “Fax Machine” because the syncopating sound effect used reminds me of Slender Man. No THANK you!