STRAIT TO THE POINT: Patsy Cline – Sentimentally Yours (1962)

Review By: Michael Strait


The last in a short line. Still lovely, though not really any more or less so than the other ones.

Three four-star records in a row, eh? On the one hand, the consistency is remarkable, but on the other hand I can’t help but wonder if she ever had it in her to achieve a real masterpiece. Alas, I guess we’ll never know – the plane crash in ’63 put paid to that. Wikipedia tells me the church bell in her hometown still rings out a hymn every day at 6pm in her memory, which I’m sure she’d appreciate. Still, best not to dwell on such mortal matters of flesh and blood – the music lives on regardless, and there ain’t a blemish on it.

I’ll confess, though, that the first half of this album had me worried I wouldn’t have much to write about. The songs are all good, but for the most part they’re just, y’know, Patsy Cline songs: slow, sparse, atmospheric, nocturnal, tragic and beautiful, lovely to listen to and almost impossible to write about individually. “She’s Got You”, “That’s My Desire” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart” – a Hank Williams cover, though actually most of these songs are technically covers – are all perfectly gorgeous and, really, perfectly identical, save perhaps for a nice little mini-crescendo near the end of the latter. “You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want To Do It)”, meanwhile, is distinguished only by the particularly heartbroken inflection she puts on the words “give me, give me, give me what I c-ry fooor”, her voice cracking as she begs.

It’s remarkable, actually, how much of Patsy Cline’s music is about not just misery, but the loss of all dignity and internal strength; it’s music about suffering emotional wounds so deep that they scar you forever, and every song carries with it the assumption that no happy ending is anywhere in sight. You can hear it on “Strange”, too, with its circling guitars and dolefully placid vocal melody underlying lyrics about a profound level of powerlessness. “Strange you’re still in all my dreams/ Oh, what a funny thing/ I still care for you”, she proclaims to her unfaithful erstwhile lover, still trapped in his memory, permanently rent in two by his betrayal.

She sounds similarly wounded on “You Were Only Fooling (While I Was Falling In Love)”, a song which also serves to remind me how truly tragic it is that pop music has largely forgotten how to tastefully apply the string section. The strings here are part of the tapestry, a central but minimally-applied component to the atmosphere, adding just the right amount of extra smoothness to the gleaming little globe of perfectly-polished sorrow from which Patsy croons her heart out. When did string sections in pop music become irretrievably associated with schmaltz and melodrama? There’s so much more you can do with a few carefully-applied violins than bury your singer in sap. Alas, it’s an art we seem to have buried next to dear Patsy.

I wish she’d done a few more faster numbers in her career, ‘cos the ones on here are both great and unique. “Heartaches” sounds remarkably propulsive for such a sparse song; its rhythm is derived only from a walking swingy bassline and a lilting guitar skank, with the drums almost nonpresent in their quiet minimalism, and yet it still sounds perfectly danceable without giving up that heavenglow charm I associate with Patsy. “Anytime” performs a similar trick, adding lovely little wind instrument flourishes and a string section that melds so perfectly to the choir that they fuse into one glowing instrument. All rather gorgeous, and the sort of music I’d have loved to see her explore more. Oh, alas, if it hadn’t been for that plane crash…

There are a lot of questions about Patsy’s career that crash left forever unanswered. Would she ever have come into her own as a songwriter, rather than simply a singer of other people’s songs? Was there potential in her to grow from merely a great lamenter of heartbreak to an exploratory, boundary-pushing artist, or would she have remained in a comfort zone of steadily diminishing returns for the rest of her life? It’s impossible to answer those questions now, of course, but at least she’s left us with some lovely music to relax to if the mood ever takes us. Now, what next? Another woman, that’s for sure – gotta counteract that UGK misogyny somehow. Stay tuned, I s’pose…


STRAIT TO THE POINT: Patsy Cline – Showcase (1961)

Review by: Michael Strait



Paintings of an America composed mostly of light, purity, and emotional pain.

Man, I’m still kind of amazed that this music was once as popular as it was. I had no idea the American public once had such a fondness for atmospheric minimalism! “Crazy” is still a bar karaoke classic in the South (and possibly elsewhere too – I can only speak from my experiences) to this day, and that usually stops making sense to me the moment I leave the establishment. It’s a heartbroken ballad, sure, but it seems like kind of a weird one by my modern standards. The instrumentation is more concerned with creating an atmosphere than conveying a specific emotion, as if it’s trying to construct the sort of environment in which a loving connection could, conceivably, be found and then lost rather than actively trying to evoke the way it feels. But what’s most fascinating about the song – and, indeed, the album as a whole – is that this atmosphere is conjured mostly by suggestion, with sparse, barely-there instruments sketching faint outlines of an emotional universe that you are encouraged to fill with your own experiences. I, personally, think the faint pianos and barely-audible rhythm guitar scratches of “Crazy” evoke the lovely emptiness of the American South on a not-unpleasantly warm summer’s night, but that’s almost certainly just my personal biases leaking onto the canvas. The architecture is here for you to provide your own setting for Patsy’s plaintive wailing, and that’s true of much of the album.

It’s evident right away, with “I Fall To Pieces”. Like the rest of the album, it’s mostly very sparse – just a bassline and vocals, really – but it sounds like far more is hiding in the distance, occasionally making suggestions of itself visible for a second or two at a time. Par example: there’s a little three-note guitar refrain that pops up repeatedly in the verses, laden with softly chiming echo effects and matched by a quiet male backing choir, casting a dim and momentary glow over the fields from the heavens before folding back into the vast, velvet darkness that blankets all things, smothering the world in tranquility and peace. Shortly thereafter, we reach “The Wayward Wind”, which sounds as if it has entirely disconnected itself from human foibles and flaws and exists in some ephemeral dreamworld, floating atop tremulous string arrangements and egoless guitar. The flawless beauty of these environments does not, of course, do much to ease poor Patsy’s soul – still she wails out her heart about missed moments, lost love and the miseries of life without companionship, immersed in the ceaseless beauty of this American dreamscape and yet lacking a soul to share it with.

“I Love You So Much It Hurts” is the other song that immediately jumps out at me as a big highlight. It’s barely two minutes, but the world itself seems to slow to a crawl as you listen, with a glacial mist of low organs, near-imperceptible guitar chimes and soft backing vocals coating the world in a ghostly, angelic haze that shields one from the passage of time. It’s easy to get lost in this world, at least until the dancier, more energetic “Seven Lonely Days” jolts you out of the dream-haze and into a more physical, motive world with fewer distractions from poor Patsy’s endless heartbreak. If it seems like a weaker song in comparison, then that’s only fair – it’s a great song, but how can it compare to the rich tapestry that preceded it?

If there’s a flaw with this album, it’s that it’s a little frontloaded. “Crazy” is the last real highlight, save perhaps for a rerecording of “Walkin’ After Midnight” which is just a teensy bit more polished and, alas, less devastating than the original. The other songs on the post-“Crazy” second half are all beautiful, but they contribute to the overriding atmosphere of the album more than they set themselves apart as individual pieces. Great for laying back and bathing in, but if I were to analyse them I’d pretty much just be repeating myself, so I won’t bother. Of the couple of songs on the first half that I’ve not covered, “Foolin’ Round” is very intriguing in that it is nearly impossible to identify any of the individual instruments played on it save for the bass, so successfully do they meld into one unit. “South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)”, meanwhile, isn’t quite on the level of brilliance of its immediately surrounding brethren but nonetheless feels like it exists in a far less corporeal world than our own, evoking mystical concepts and distant lands only vaguely corresponding to the places we know as Mexico or suchlike.

Pop music, eh? Amazing what the public is capable of appreciating so long as it comes packaged with relatable lyrics. This is as painterly and atmospheric as any ambient music, and it doesn’t sacrifice an ounce of emotional impact for it. Certainly worth your time as much as any Oren Ambarchi record. Now, how long shall I make my dedicated three-or-so readers wait until my next review? I’m thinking maybe five hundred years…



STRAIT TO THE POINT: Patsy Cline – Patsy Cline (1957)

Review By: Michael Strait


Misery itself. As beautiful as it gets.

“It’s nice to know that there’s music that isn’t rooted in misery.”

– Dave Grohl, idiot, on country music

I plan to review a lot of country artists in my time here, but I’m not entirely sure how I’m gonna go about it. Country artists are a prolific bunch, and the legends tend to have discographies that stretch off into distant solar systems. I’ll come up with a way of reviewing them in depth one day, but in the meantime I’ll start with Patsy Cline, who had the decency to die in a plane crash after releasing only three albums.

Now, I’m not the most knowledgeable bloke when it comes to this era of music. I know, however, that this album isn’t what you might call pure country. It’s got that cosmopolitan Nashville style, pulling all sorts of different influences into a great country-shaped melting pot that bears a striking resemblance to just about every form of American popular music of the time without actually committing fully to being any of them. That sounds like a sneering insult, but it’s not, because the end result isn’t the beige pile of mud one might usually expect from such a collection of distilled references. Instead, all the styles ultimately end up subservient to country music’s peculiar lightweight gorgeousness, where all the individual instruments seem to disappear into a shimmering, ephemeral cloud of divine beauty, annihilating the musical ego entirely as the individual musicians disappear into the collective. Atop this glowing fog resides the heartbreak of Patsy Cline, screamed and wailed out with the power of a thousand suns. This dichotomy between the divinely perfect and the brokenly human is what motivates much of my favourite country music, and this album is as lovely a representation of it as you will find anywhere.

Across this album’s runtime – less than half an hour, as was normal in country music (and, indeed, much other music) of the time – there are two components that remain constant, undergirding all the tracks and binding the influences together. The first, most famously, is Mrs. Cline’s gorgeous, sonorous voice, resonant with overwhelming emotion and occasionally inflected with just a little bit of ugly phlegm to get the point across. The second, more subtly, is the backing vocals of The Anita Kerr Singers, present (unless my memory doth deceive me) on even the roughest, bluesiest tracks here. That serves to smooth down the edges of some of the grittier influences here, making sure that even the r&b riffs of “In Care For The Blues” and the swingy horns of “Too Many Secrets” ultimately sound as if they are in the service of some omnibenevolent being. This goes both ways, though. The opener, “That Wonderful Someone”, is ostensibly a plain-and-simple worship song for that aforementioned omnibenevolent being, and the softly clean instrumentation sounds as tranquil and bright as a clear mountain stream, but Patsy’s voice still peals across the shimmering waters like a doleful horn, reminding us all – I guess – of the perpetual fallen sinfulness of humanity, tragically heartbroken even as surrounded by the natural wonders erected by that wonderful someone.

I don’t know how genuine her pain was – I’ve not properly read up on her biography – but it certainly sounds real. I’ve never heard anyone wail quite as desperately as she does on “Don’t Ever Leave Me Again”, which may contain the most wince-inducingly convincing scream (so to speak) of the words “I feel like dying” ever uttered. “Three Cigarettes In An Ashtray”, too, is truly tragic, as Patsy wails her heart out in a smoky, empty room lit only by sparse chiming guitars and soft backing vocals. That’s a continuation of the implicitly nocturnal theme found on “I Can’t Forget”, with its quiet, intimate piano and sleepy rhythm guitar laying contentedly atop the angelfeather bed conjured by the backing choir. Patsy herself, sadly, enjoys no such contentedness – she’s still up, bathing in the meagre light of a fading fire, sadly reflecting on her lonesomeness. Even amid the comfiest domestic bliss a set of instruments and a choir can evoke, she gets no rest.

That nocturnal theme is finally made explicit on the album’s big, famous standout, “Walkin’ After Midnight”, which is far more evocative and atmospheric than a two-and-a-half minute song about loneliness has any right to be. It’s got a lovely, meandering slide guitar riff and a bit of a doleful rhythm, but most of that atmosphere comes from the echoey resonance of Patsy’s voice and the painterly fullness of the lyrics, sketching a fulsome picture of an emotional state rent between lonesome anguish and the tranquil peace of midnight solitude. “I stop to see a weepin’ willow/ Cryin’ on his pillow/ Maybe he’s cryin’ for me”, she sings, drawing out the last syllable into a mournfully climbing peal of despair. As someone who finds very little in the world as relaxing as being alone at night, I relate; I just hope I never experience pain like this. What was it Young Thug said? “I ain’t never been in love, I don’t know how pain feels”? If this is what love leads to, maybe he was right about it all along.

There isn’t a bad song on the album, but I guess I have to concede that “Walkin’ After Midnight” is the only really big standout. “Then You’ll Know” is so gorgeously tranquil that it seems to make time itself stop when one listens to it, but I’ll freely admit that it kind of disappears fairly easily from the memory after it’s done, as do most of these. It’s a great album, but ultimately it’s not a masterpiece and it’s far from the best country album I’ve ever heard. Still, come on – ninety whole ratings, RYM? Ninety? This lady deserves so much better than that. I’ll do what I can to correct this grave collective error myself over the coming weeks.

ALEX ALEX’S COLUMN: SOUL ENEMA – Of Clans and Clones and Clowns (2017)

Review by: Alex Alex
Assigned by :Constantin Glanz


Following the history of “progressive” (mandatory including all the “inspired by”) rock bands is much like watching the entire Leslie Nielsen filmography: the only question to answer is “when we are supposed to start laughing?”.

The correct answer is that we are not – the existential tragedy of the “Airplane!” becomes obvious from the first utterance.

In a far away future, where airplanes all run on steam, how we are supposed to tell which one of them most resembles the present-day Boeing? The context, the hard disks installed in the invisible robots all around us, make us laugh at the heroic attempts of Mr Nielsen to, first, save the Airplane and then the Starship – but deep in our hearts we know that the man is as good as Jefferson, Washington, Trump or Dead Kennedy.

If it’s all a timeless mess now, how do we judge? When one is close to death one is close to the timeless. Death is a lonely business, let me steal from the SF businessman here, but the loneliness means no one around, no other businesses to compare with. And, if we do not have anything to compare Airplane! with then it’s not funny anymore. Then it’s just an airplane crushing, people dying and a brave captain trying to save them by doing what he must do.

Thus, I encourage you to give a listen to Soul Enema. I do not say that in a way the whore-like agents in the tourists agencies do. I do not promise you five stars but, in return, you are free to acknowledge that you never really deserved even three. Fuck, have you ever done anything yourself? Have you ever hunted baboons on Mars? Have you ever witnessed the last days of Rome? Do you know anything about Aral Sea?

Aral Sea is the Sea Inside and as we do not have any more “inside” so it’s here now. Once people thought there will always be enough room in hell for all the zombies. But then the walls (and the animals) changed their solid forms to that of Miku Hatsune, the room changed into the movie, and all the Hellboys are now here forever, comfortably.

So I encourage you, again, to listen to Soul Enema if not for anything else, then as a kind of a Greenpeace action. Consider it a fun, a challenge. How brave you are? Will you dare telling your friends that Soul Enema is a good group? Will you be able to explain why? Or, you don’t fucking know anything, right? There are lists of groups out there, Soul Enema is not on the lists? Tourist you are and a Greenpeace warrior you are not. They are coming to get you.

Bravery and insanity is all that’s left for us. Not an industry-manufactured insanity, sold as a series of “genius” figures with porcelain heads crushed by a bullet or made malfunctioned by the drugs. Olden times all people were brave and insane and that was the definition for sanity. I remember that from my childhood and you, probably, do, too. Back then we could have music as we pleased. But we never really wanted anything too original or too strange. We knew what music was.

Now, we do not really know that anymore. It’s good that Soul Enema does.


Review By Michael Strait


I’d call this bittersweet, but that’d be inaccurate. This is bland.

Well, ain’t this a disappointment? Five albums, four of them brilliant, and then they had to go and release this. The best songs on here are merely pretty good, the worst is absolutely horrendous, and the majority – most offensively – are utterly dull, grey sludges that merely serve as a passable imitation of the UGK we know and love, convincing only from a distance. It’s a terribly anticlimactic end to a great career and a mightily sad obituary for one of the best rappers ever, especially since his posthumous verses here are probably the best part of the record. I’ve reviewed plenty of music much, much worse than this, but in terms of raw disappointment this one might just take the cake.

Still, it could be worse. At their very worst, UGK bottomed out at merely okay, and there’s only one song on this record (and, by extension, their career as a whole) that I’d be willing to describe as truly, totally godawful. That’s “Hard as Hell”, which is more a vehicle for major chord teenpop crooner Akon than it is a UGK song. Bun and Pimp’s verses try desperately to clamber out of the cloying mid-2000s pseudo-r&b muck (which all sounds especially pathetic, considering the record came out in 2009), but there’s nothing they can do next to Akon’s repulsive presence, and they are promptly pushed back under and drowned by his hideous, intolerable hook. It sounds more like a malicious parody of 00s pop rap than a real song, and it contains nothing of value whatsoever. The first time I listened to this album, I skipped it in horror after twenty seconds; the second time, I halved my speaker’s volume to make sure nobody else would hear it and assume I was enjoying it. If one must insist on owning this album, don’t bother with this one; delete it from your download queue before it even gets the chance to malign your hard drive.

There’s nothing else that bad on the record, but there ain’t much especially good, either. I’ll admit that “Da Game Been Good to Me” – the only hook from this album that ever springs unbidden to my mind, like the other great UGK hooks – comes kinda close, and it’s certainly very pleasant, but it sounds kinda like those various little tracks I devoted once line each to in my Underground Kingz review. Yeah, sure, it’s a good song, but does it hold up next to, say, anything on Super Tight? Of course it doesn’t. The only song that even comes close to that level on this record is “Swishas and Erb”, which has what may be the last great production Pimp C ever masterminded. There’s all those little atmospheric details Pimp loved – the distant, vaguely ominous horn sample; the barely-tangible piano notes flaring away at the edge of one’s consciousness like fireflies; the ghostly, soul-style backing vocals – together with a great bassline and a smooth, slinking hook. It’s a great song, but it’s still not as great as I’ve come to expect from UGK, and it’s not enough to make the album worth it when stacked up next to all the filler here.

That’s just what most of it is – stuffing! I can’t say very much about the vast majority of these songs, ‘cos really they’re all the same. Every song from “Everybody Wanna Ball” to “She Luv It” is the same, and none of them are better (or worse, I guess) than okay. They all have fairly boring, mediocre hooks, sorta decent funky beats, good (but not especially great) verses from Pimp C and forgettable verses from Bun B. None of them really achieve anything, and I get the impression none of them were made with any greater aspiration than simply being UGK songs. There’s none of the atmosphere, emotion, or buckets of fun UGK were capable of at their best here; it’s just a bunch of rap songs about, mostly, simply being UGK, and I don’t have much use for that.

This gets more explicit elsewhere. “Harry Asshole” is so direct and shameless an effort to get by on pure nostalgia that it’s almost nauseating, and I hate it on principle. It’s the instrumental to “I Left It Wet For You” (from Super Tight, remember?) with the infamous “hairy asshole” line from “Let Me See It” (from Dirty Money, remember?) thrown atop and repeated as a hook, and the end result feels rather Frankensteinian. It’s enjoyable enough on a musical level, since the instrumental to “I Left It Wet For You” is one of the best UGK ever made, but why wouldn’t I just listen to the original? What’s here that I’d miss – a Boosie verse? Eh…

The guest verses in general are usually disappointing, too. Snoop Dogg in 2009 was far, far removed from his glory days, and his feature on “Steel Your Mind” isn’t very good. Too $hort’s is better, but it’s hardly a showstopper. E-40 is great on Used to Be, but the various others are long past their prime, as is Big Gipp on “Purse Come First”. None of these songs are particularly good anyway – “Used to Be”, in fact, comes dangerously close to outright sucking – but the guest verses add an extra layer of temporal depression to the affair. Nobody is safe from time’s arrow, not even formerly great rappers like 8ball & MJG, and artistic death is inescapable.

Pimp C came close to escaping it – his verses, though not as memorable as usual, are indeed pretty good on this record – but he, alas, had rather bigger problems in the end. Death had to come for the Pimp in his sleep,  because if he had been awake I presume there would have been a fight. The lean killed him, as it has killed so many, including another just yesterday. I do think he deserved a better swan song than this, though. This ain’t a patch on a plaster on a cast on a bandage on UGK in their prime, and I do hope nobody in the world was ever introduced to them through this album or they might never have recovered. UGK are one of the brightest diamonds in hip-hop’s crown, and no amount of mediocre posthumous releases can dent the glory of the masterpieces they were once capable of. And besides, it could be worse – if you (like me) hold to the common belief that UGK were the Rolling Stones to Outkast’s Beatles, then we might have expected UGK to release a steadily worsening stream of absolute garbage for the rest of their careers, apparently drawing eternal life from the worthlessness of their music and continuing to ghoulishly churn it out until the eventual heat death of the universe. Death before dishonour, right?



STRAIT TO THE POINT: UGK – Underground Kingz (2007)

Review by: Michael Strait


Two hours of trillness might be a bit much for even the biggest UGK fan, but there’s a lot of great stuff in here.

This is, as of writing, the longest album I’ve ever reviewed, and it really doesn’t need to be. The six-year wait between Dirty Money and this might’ve made the fans antsy, but that’s no excuse to deluge them in useless filler like “Take tha Hood Back” or “Stop-n-Go”. There’s also a large number of songs on this record that are good, but in a totally autopilot way – songs like “Tell Me How Ya Feel”, “Trill Niggas Don’t Die” and “Underground Kingz”, all of which have catchy hooks, nice basslines, great rapping and almost nothing to set them apart from each other. So many of these pile up in the second disc that listening to it ends up being a kind of exhausting experience, even though most of the songs aren’t really doing anything particularly wrong. The stretch from “Two Type of Bitches” to “Tell Me How Ya Feel” contains the occasional unusual feature – great verses from Dizzee Rascal(!) and Talib Kweli, the minimally-applied bass on “Candy”, the almost frighteningly weird prospect of Pimp C calling women “queens” on “Real Women” – but for the most part it’s the sort of music that’s much easier to zone out to and blankly enjoy than it is to think about. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it all sounds lovely, but it can’t help but seem a teeny bit like a step down in the face of some of the best stuff on this album. ‘Cos there is a lot of great stuff on this album, and if you condensed it all into one album it’d be up there with UGK’s best.

First, let’s deal with the elephant in the room. There are a lot of people on RYM who are perfectly willing to call “Int’l Players Anthem” the best song ever made, and I ain’t always willing to disagree. This is a song that really, truly transcends its sample, transforming it from a merely pretty great soul song into a bright, gleaming stretch for the heavens, eradicating any trace of flawed humanity and leaving only a brass riff that sounds as if it descended from Elysium with a chorus of angels. The first minute of this song is rather like a direct soul-injection of raw beauty and light, the beatless purity of the sample enveloping and swallowing Andre 3000 like some glittering elixir as he careens free-associatively through matters such as geography, spaceships and the moon, excitedly darting between metaphors in a way that shouldn’t hold together as beautifully as it does. His flow traces those strange rhythms only he can, stumbling about purposefully as if blinded by the light, off-kilter and gorgeously unpredictable. Never has a verse melded so perfectly with an instrumental as this one; it might be the best single minute in rap history.

The rest of the song is great too, of course, if not quite as iconic as that. DJ Paul and Juicy J have the sense to give each rapper different variations of the beat, throwing in bass and drums for Pimp C (whose abrasive verse is admittedly a little jarring after Andre’s, not that it really bothers me), looping one particularly triumphant segment for the opening of Bun’s adorable declarations of love and dropping everything but the bass and drums for substantial segments of Big Boi’s technical meanderings. That gives each verse its own particular sense of import, and transforms this from just another posse cut into one of the best rap songs ever made. UGK, Outkast and the Three 6 Mafia are three of the greatest musical groups of all time, but even I would never have expected a collaboration of theirs to end up being this good. This is a full, complete realisation of potential, and that’s a rare thing in music.

It’s exceedingly hard to follow that, of course, but Pimp C does his best. “Chrome Plated Woman” is one of only three songs on the album he produced entirely himself, and it’s one of his best productions ever. It’s one of the catchiest, funkiest and most propulsive grooves he ever came up with, and the bassline especially is one of the best in UGK’s discography. The hook, too, is just about impossible to get out of your head once you’ve heard it, as is Pimp C’s proud claim that he’s been “steady pimpin’ bitches through my website”. It’s a slice of raw, confident swagger that recalls the best moments on Super Tight, imparting just the smallest sliver of Pimp and Bun’s supreme self-belief onto the listener and thus momentarily transforming one’s world into a far wealthier, more successful and generally triller place.

Those are the best two songs on the record, for sure, but there’s still lots of great songs elsewhere. “Life Is 2009” overcomes its nonsensical title to be one of the most fun tracks on the record, with a great little popping guitar riff, a nice mirroring piano/bass motif and a memorably sleazy verse from the inimitably filthy Too $hort. “The Game Belongs To Me” has one of the most memorable hooks in UGK’s discography and a great, weirdly contrasting synth riff, as well as some of Pimp’s most charismatic proclamations of his own dominance. “They call me Mick Jagger, ‘cos I roll a lotta stooones!“, he sneers, turning what should be a lame pun into an irresistible boast by sheer force of will. “Like That (Remix)” has a sweeping, melodramatic string-based percussion that straight-up sounds like dirty, filthy money, complete with Bun B turning in his most impressively technical work since Ridin’ Dirty. Then there’s “Quit Hatin’ the South”, which has a nice descending guitar riff and a message I wholly support. The south really is the best region for hip-hop, and the sooner this myth of east coast supremacy is put to rest the better.

There’s a couple of great songs at the beginning of the second disc, too. “How Long Can It Last” is nearly seven minutes long, but it’s not at all a chore – I’d advise you to simply lie back and relax as the pleasant bravado and distant female vocal samples wash over you, assuming you aren’t moving your hips to the bass. “Still Ridin’ Dirty” is perhaps the most atmospheric song UGK ever made, with an ominously monolithic piano riff and big, expansive synths punctuated by reverby psychedelic guitar chords, sounding rather vaster than the cramped urban projects they’re rapping about. “Cocaine” is similar, complete with an amateur’s guide to the political, historical and social context of cocaine as a drug and a part of the economy courtesy of professor (as in, actual professor) Bun B, though Rick Ross’ verse does have a pretty weird and unpleasantly amateurish doubling effect that does the song no favours.

The rest of the songs here are mostly good, but not quite great, either because they just don’t have any real unique qualities (“Swishas and Doshas”, “Gravy”, “Heaven”), because they’re laden with the sorts of dated synths that seem kinda quaint in the post-trap era (“Grind Hard”, the original version of “Like That”), or because they’re “bonus tracks” (i.e they were included on the very first edition of the album, but shoved after the outro and called “bonus tracks” because they weren’t quite good enough for the main event). Of those, the version of “Int’l Players Anthem” with DJ Paul and Juicy J instead of Outkast is fun – definitely better suited to the clubs than the original – but not essential, and the chopped & screwed version is so poorly done as to be an unlistenable disgrace to the name of the late, great DJ Screw.

Let’s see – what have I missed? Ah, yes – there’s “Next Up”, which is actually pretty great, ‘cos you have two of the best East Coast rappers of the 90s on the same song as Pimp and Bun, comparing and contrasting styles as they rap over a very basic beat. It’s an intriguing exercise and certainly pretty enjoyable, though it can’t help but seem like a bit of a step down from the other major posse cut on the record. “Shattered Dreams” features Pimp C doing the unthinkable and expressing sympathy and support for everyone from prostitutes to gay men, which certainly isn’t something I expected from the man who spent the opening track of this record accusing various modern rappers of being “homosexuals on the low”. And then, finally, we have “Living This Life”, a fairly pleasant journey through the guilty consciences of our two anti-villains as they reckon with the wrong they have done in their years spent hustling. It’s kind of a rote way to close out a gangsta rap album, but it’s still a good song, not to mention sadly bittersweet considering what became of Pimp C mere months after this album’s release.

I sure hope Pimp’s enjoying his time in the great Cadillac in the sky, ‘cos he deserves to after giving us this much great music. As far as swan songs go, this would’ve been a pretty good one – a few not-so-hot tracks, but a nonetheless mostly good, often great album that contains one or two of the finest things he ever did. In the end, though, it wasn’t his swan song – there’s one more UGK album left to come, and (spoiler alert!) it’s not their best. Nonetheless, I’ll get to it as soon as I can. In the meantime, do what y’all should have been doing the last few years and blast “Int’l Players Anthem” on repeat until you reach spiritual apotheosis. You owe it to yourself.