Music Review: Charles Xavier - The Xman Cometh - Expect The Unexpected
So, I was watching the American Music Awards last night. I love awards shows. The stilted cue card reads. The bad jokes (though Jimmy Kimmel’s Kevin Federline “no-hit wonder” joke did make me laugh). The bad “performances”— made so much the better when the camera switches back to the audience to catch those shocked/bored looks frozen on celebrity faces.
Still, one of the reasons I watch these things is that I’m not intimately connected with the pop music scene and you just never know what’ll turn up. Sure, these particular awards are based on record sales and a fan survey (Hey, you didn’t ask me!) so the results will tend toward the least common denominator (the category that had Nickelback, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and a third bland record comes to mind). But then Sean Paul won the award for best male pop/rock artist. I had heard of (but never heard) the dancehall singer Sean Paul, and now I’m interested. There was also a punkish rock band that I liked (and somehow managed to miss the name).
I know, I know…there’s this whole concept of “American Music”, the true roots of our music, that’s just not represented here. But the amazing thing is that even the watered-down genres like country do have their roots in Americana. Rock. Soul. Jazz. Funk. Hip hop. Blues. Country. Pop. Or, more historically accurate: Blues, Jazz, Country, Soul, Rock, Funk, Pop.
All of these genres are represented in Charles Xavier’s The Xman Cometh. Xavier, a true music polymath (music and video production, percussion, leader of several avant garde jazz outfits), has put together a group of compositions that manage to touch on all of the afore-mentioned genres. That alone might not be such a big deal if the album was a disjointed mess. It’s not. In fact, “cohesive” is the right word.
Topics broached include creativity, the sadness of Katrina, big band jazz, Hollywood from the inside, love. This is all drawn together by a pulsing funk spiced up by a cast of relative unknowns who seem to be able to pull together all in the same direction. The clouds of instrumentation (including bass, drums, percussion, vibraphone, guitar, trumpet, saxophone, and keyboards) somehow remind me of what went on in those Parliament/Funkadelic records. It’s a vibe that’s tough to pull off without the entire ensemble being in the know, so to speak.
No track-by-track consideration here. You’ve got to experience the record as a whole. Just know that there are not many albums out there sounding like this.
But, you might be thinking, is this Xman a musical variant of the Marvel comics character, Professor X? That’s certainly one way of looking at it. Xavier says that the Xman is “everyman’s emcee”, with topics of “love, sex, politics, the streets or the dreams buried deep in our hearts.” The X-Men were put together to better relations between humans and mutants. Tossing the obvious “Who are the mutants?” jokes aside, the parallels are fairly obvious.
Oh, but then there’s Kevin Federline…