Singles Club: The ‘90s revival reaches tipping point with CL, Metallica and Mr. Oizo & Skrillex

Each week on the FACT Singles Club, a selection of our writers work their way through the new music of the week gone by.

This week, K-pop star CL gets inspired by vintage Wu-Tang, Mr. Oizo teams up with Skrillex for some throwback fun with breakbeats, and Danny Brown might have made his weirdest track ever.

Bon Iver returns with some freaky post-Yeezus material and the Singles Club are blown away by an experimental throat singer and Metallica’s thrash comeback. Grab your spandex, the ‘90s revival has reached a tipping point.

CL – ‘Lifted’

Chris Kelly: So is this the K-pop-crossover equivalent of those acoustic YouTube covers of rap hits by earnest white folks? Method Man co-sign or not, this is a tepid tribute, and it’s not surprising: there’s Asher Roth in the credits! Goodbye, bitches. (3)

Son Raw: In which CL does her part to nullify the toxicity of online rap discourse by reminding us that, yes, ‘90s boom bap was actually fun! Take notes Lil Yachty, pay attention Joey Bada$$. An easy shoe-in for gender-bending K-Pop dancehall Wu-Tang cover of the year, and a joyful example of car crash cultural collisions working out. (8)

Tayyab Amin: There are licks of how Rihanna and M.I.A. have reformatted Caribbean music for pop, a bit of Missy Elliott in the start of the first verse, but on the whole this is a Wu-Tang pub quiz for the 1080p generation. It reeks of mimicry and boardrooms but I’m really not mad at it ‘cause it’s just so chill. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: After months of fashion spreads boasting about how CL was Jeremy Scott’s best mate (or whatever), the obnoxious ‘Dr Pepper’ and the redundant ‘Hello Bitches’ killed a lot of my goodwill for The Baddest Female. When was she going to deliver on her promise as a cool, modern pop star with splurges of Xeroxed trap gimmickry? ‘Lifted’ is a breeze in the opposite direction, allowing bursts of colour to seep into her (admittedly still very) cool aesthetic and putting her Santigold-style lilt to practice. By the time the bridge lurches into a lover’s rock pace, the memories of 2NE1’s ‘Falling in love’ start flooding back, and that reminder leads you to thinking that yeah, CL could still make a really good pop star. (7)

Haley Potiker: The year is 2216. A group of excavators have descended on Earth, presumably to scour for first-generation iPods, rumored to be a valuable source of fuel. It’s August, but the planet has been ravaged by several nuclear winters, leaving no signs of intelligent life. The sky, even the air itself is a thick, orange-grey cloud of dust and smog. For some reason, most of New York’s architecture remains. One clumsy excavator trips and falls into a fire hydrant, knocking the valve loose.

The flow of water quickly spreads down one city block, then another. Everything turns to crisp Technicolor like The Wizard of Oz. Scores of teens spring forth from the fountain, wearing hoop earrings and texting on Sidekicks. Some double dutch.

All of this is soundtracked by ‘Lifted’, wherein CL, a millennial superstar from South Korea reimagines ‘M.E.T.H.O.D. Man’ from 36 Chambers as a dancehall song. Because really, if you took something definitively New York and let it mutate in weird digital currents for centuries, what else would it sound like? [*Hits blunt* – Ed.] (7)


Danny Brown – ‘Pneumonia’

Haley Potiker: Danny Brown made Old to make money. That doesn’t mean it was compromised or un-artistic; in fact, the decision to put the handful of songs that would score him huge festival paydays on the album’s back end, after a grim suite about hangovers and heartbreak, colored them brilliantly. But if the lead singles from Atrocity Exhibition are any indication, he’s more interested in mining the depths of his worst acid trips. (10)

Chris Kelly: An improvement over ‘When It Rain’, ‘Pneumonia’ finds Evian Christ delivering an off-kilter banger (those garbage can drums!) that doesn’t stifle Brown’s considerable personality as he gives his iconoclastic twist to trap rap. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Appropriately for someone who makes ugly drug-high music, this peaks dramatically before floundering a little too long, right around the final chorus – I miss the concise nihilism of XXX-era Brown sometimes. However, this is still good stuff, containing the funniest reference to the Macarena you’ll ever hear while Schoolboy Q provides the most egoless backing vocals from a rapper since Jeezy stood in the shadows for Kanye’s ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing’. (7)

Son Raw: This doesn’t match the breakneck intensity of ‘When It Rain’, nor should it – Old’s sole weakness was that the turn-up section proved exhausting, so it’s a relief to see Danny Brown synthesizing his electronic adventures with his darker, more atmospheric material. This is full of subtle flourishes, most notably the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it “Ha” crash. This album can’t drop soon enough. (8)

Tayyab Amin: There are a few signature Evian Christ motifs but it’s a different beast to what I’d expect, and it reminds me a little bit of clipping. Danny Brown is one of few rappers acrobatic enough to leap on and run rings around this sort of beat. It’s a little less extroverted than his other singles in recent years. This time, less turns out to be that much more. (8)


Tanya Tagaq – ‘Aorta’

Haley Potiker: Tany Tagaq is an experimental Inuit singer whose work has received considerable acclaim in Canadian circles, but whose route to success brings to light some of that country’s uglier histories. Her last record, Animism, won the Polaris Prize, and much of her work is informed by her experience as an indigenous woman growing up in the shadow of an abusive government education program that aimed to “assimilate” her and her peers. Retribution, her new album, is influenced by the rape of people, culture, and land, according to its press release. Given that, it might be surprising how obviously and plainly ‘Aorta’’s melodies shine through. It’s a heavy listen, but it’s cathartic. (7)

Son Raw: I’m glad more artists are speaking out about Canada’s shameful treatment of First Nations people throughout history, but I also refuse to actually listen to this thing a second time because it hurts my ears. (3)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Similar to her fellow Medulla contributor Mike Patton, Tagaq has the power to reclaim her squalls from the realms of macabre schtick to associate them once more with real horror. While ‘Aorta’ begins with an industrial tinge, it sounds unfamiliar and adventurous – unmarked territory. By the time she screams “KILL OR DIE”, you can’t shift for fear that you’ve been trespassing, too alarmed to move and too stunned to ever want to. (8)

Tayyab Amin: I’ve only ever listened to folk throat singing, never this industrial/post-punk Beefheart type of throat singing. This is claustrophobic, tortured and harrowing. It’s an unrelenting train, lost in its mantra of “Kill or die!” I can’t work out whether the perspective is from the bloodlust of the oppressor or the survival instincts of the oppressed. It’s deeply upsetting in any case. (8)


Bon Iver – ’10 d E A T h b R E a s T’

Chris Kelly: The straight-ahead indie-folk of Bon Iver’s highly acclaimed output didn’t do much for me, but I’ve been intrigued by his work post-Yeezus. This definitely has a touch of the latter, its balladry obscured but bolstered by noisy electronics like something out of the Yeasayer catalog. (7)

Son Raw: You can mask that prog-rock bloat with all the contemporary effects and processing you want Bon Iver, deep down this is still junior college freak folk with a vocoder. That Kanye co-sign can only get me to pay attention for so long. (5)

Haley Potiker: You have to kind of respect Justin Vernon, the world’s most likable man, for using the most unlikable song titles possible this time round. Keeping in mind that the last “death breast” I ate was organic and fair trade, this one at least has a little grit to it. What works is that while this is weird and dissonant, it’s weird and dissonant to a clear, cogent end. There are beautiful, evocative melodies buried in here, and the distortion acts as a sort of fog we all have to cut through. It demands attention, and it rewards it, too. (8)

Tayyab Amin: I like this, but I don’t feel like I’d listen to it so much as I’d come across it soundtracking naked slim caucasians doing ballet on Nowness. Though it’s not a particularly difficult track, sonically or aesthetically, I can’t help but catch try-hard vibes from it. Perhaps it’s the random JRPG fanfare that swirls up halfway through, or its structure, or the word “fuckified”. Still, I’m looking forward to the album more than before. (6)


Metallica – ‘Hardwired’

Tayyab Amin: I’m finding it really surreal how being into wrestling is becoming less socially crippling, and – dare I say it – cool (again?). I think that in this post-reality TV era people new to it understand the kayfabe a little more now. What they don’t know is that being into wrestling comes with an obligatory subscription to metal, and if Metallica are back at it again then all I can say is lace up, adjust your spandex and tie your hair back ‘cause everything’s about to be exactly the same as it was before. (4)

Son Raw: Holy shit, Metallica actually THRASH here. Sure, this would have mattered a lot more in 1996 than today, but I can’t fault them for finally delivering music their fans actually want to hear instead of the torturous, contrarian experiments that have bedeviled their discography for 25 years. Rock on dudes. (7)

Chris Kelly: Recently, Singles Club has been overrun by 40-year-old pop-punkers trying to reclaim their 90s glory. This week we’ve got metal legends/piracy villains Metallica trying to reclaim their ‘80s thrash metal glory, and – loudness war compression aside – it’s not bad? I’m as surprised as anyone. I guess therapy must be working. (5)

Haley Potiker: This is so weird: I hit play on ‘Hardwired’ as I was driving home, just to get a feel before I gave it my full attention. But by the time I’d pulled into my garage and turned off the engine, I could tell something was amiss. I unbuckled my seatbelt, unlatched the door, and stood to get up when it hit me — my wallet was now connected to my neck by a giant chain. As someone named “Warren Joe” wrote on Youtube dot com, “Eat shit haters.” (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: For years, Metallica have traded in a self-aware Back-to-the-Bay routine where they can nod to their fans’ frustrations at their current output by leaning hard into the aesthetics of their ‘80s classics. This can be masked by nostalgia (covers album Garage Inc) or back-to-basics sloganeering (Death Magnetic), but never feels as real as their creative mishaps (the misunderstood Lulu, for example). ‘Hardwired’ is another hard lean into the classic Metallica act, but it feels earned and fully engaged instead of sounding like a gussed-up pastiche. Aside from the wet fart that is Kirk Hammett’s solo, this rips, and it feels good to say that about a new Metallica song. (8)


Mr. Oizo feat. Skrillex – ‘End of the World’

Chris Kelly: Just in time for the blog house revival [Damn right – Blog House Ed.] Oizo teams up with Skrillex when the latter is moving from strength to strength. Together, the pair ‘Think’-break their way through some electro nostalgia aided by a pitch-perfect Speak & Spell hook. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: ‘End Of The World’ sounds like ‘90s presets. Does the job, but not a cataclysmic one. (5)

Son Raw: If you hadn’t told me this was Skrillex and Oizo, I’d have guessed it was the B-side of a release that didn’t quite crack the Beatport Breaks Top 50. Why is the meeting of two of electronic music’s greatest trolls so damn serious? (4)

Tayyab Amin: I don’t know what I must have inflicted on you for you to put me through this. What is this Ralph Wiggum-edition Siri voice on top of the Darude ‘Sandstorm’ intro soundtracking a transition from bait student drum and bass to bait student house? Untag me, I want out. (1)

Haley Potiker: As tempting as it is to reduce Skrillex to a haircut and a broken dream, he does have the musical chops for guys like Mr. Oizo to seek him out as a collaborator. This is like if you dipped 2011 in a fondue pot of 1983 and let it cool on the counter for a little bit, which is a compliment. It’s brisk, it’s industrial, and you can dance to it. What did you think this was gonna be, Charlie Rose? (8)


Final scores:

Danny Brown – ‘Pneumonia’ (8)
Bon Iver – ’10 d E A T h b R E a s T’ (6.5)
Tanya Tagaq – ‘Aorta’ (6.5)
CL – ‘Lifted’ (6.2)
Metallica – ‘Hardwired’ (6)
Mr. Oizo feat. Skrllex – ‘End of the World’ (5.2)



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