Arts Desk

The Empire of Chill: Thievery Corporation Helped Build U Street, but They Sound Homeless

In the 1990s, Thievery Corporation did not want to be a D.C. band.

“We are jet-setters,” Eric Hilton told Washington City Paper in a 1999 cover story. Hilton and his creative partner, Rob Garza, liked to wear suits. “In a suit, you can go anyplace,” said Hilton. “We’re living in a global marketplace.” Above all, it seemed, the downtempo group yearned to be suave international superstars.

That was four years after the opening of Eighteenth Street Lounge, the Dupont nightspot co-owned by Hilton that blazed the way for the clutch of stylish restaurants and bars in which he later invested—Dragonfly, Local 16, Marvin, American Ice Company, Patty Boom Boom, U Street Music Hall, and a trio of nightspots with Anglophilic, semi-rhyming names: Gibson, Dickson, and not-yet-opened Brixton. For a guy with worldwide aspirations, he sure put down local roots.

More than a decade after the City Paper story, Hilton has helped build the chic environment Thievery desired—a moneyed, cosmopolitan city where faux-hawked artists perch on the same bar stools as cufflinked lobbyists. Simultaneously, they’ve grown their music empire. Last year, the band sold out five consecutive dates at the 9:30 Club; the group’s homegrown label, ESL Music, now flaunts a classy, multinational roster; and Hilton’s establishments have helped redefine nightlife on U Street NW. Twelve years ago, the duo had almost given up on selling their records in D.C. Now, D.C. is their castle, and they should be kings.

Instead, they sound more homeless than ever. Their sixth studio album, Culture of Fear, isn’t roaming the world, like previous Thievery full-lengths. It’s just lost.

In a sense, it fails in the same manner in which past Thievery albums have failed. It’s boring. Rudderless. Refined, but anesthetic. And unconvincing, because it’s apparent that despite their long-term commitment to chill music, these guys probably don’t just get into the studio, light up a spliff, and let the vibes flow. No, there’s a regimen. You can’t build the chill empire by being chill. To build the chill empire, you show up every day 10 minutes early and do your job. In a suit.

The best track is a vintage-tinged ambient number—the slinky “Light Flares” sounds like a Stereolab take on the La Planète Sauvage soundtrack—but other songs emit only a faint plume of joie de vivre that evaporates quickly. Most of the album attempts bead-curtain atmospherics, and winds up somewhere between plodding and comatose. There are zero jams. Gone are the high-profile guest stars of The Cosmic Game, the multilingual acrobatics of The Richest Man in Babylon, and, most surprisingly, the group’s trademark sitar. It’s kind of shocking to hear Thievery without that instrument, actually, despite all the criticisms lobbed against the band’s cloying, Putumayo-grade multiculturalism over the years.

The absence of bright, acoustic elements makes Culture of Fear even lonelier. It cuts back on dub-reggae influences—the patois-fluent Steele brothers, known as See-I, are nowhere to be found—and doubles down on feminine cooing. With their airy sweetness, LouLou Ghelichkhani and newcomer Kota float, whisper, and linger with the complexity of an inexpensive Chardonnay. “Take my soul,” Ghelichkhani sings, on the track of the same name. “I don’t need it anymore.” Oh, how you do.

Where the album isn’t weakened by soullessness, it sags under the weight of George W. Bush-era paranoia. On its cover, a creepy surveillance camera is turned toward the world. “All that they weave/is a web of deceit,” belts Tamara Wellons—the lone strong voice on the record—over a funk riff that disappears into a gas cloud. On the title track, rapper Mr. Lif opens, “Seems to me like they want us to be afraid, man. Or maybe we just like being afraid.” Thievery has long peddled undercooked lefty politics, but here they sound late to the table, too.

LISTEN: Thievery Corporation – "Culture of Fear"

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

That, or the group has sunk into a quicksand of bizarre politico-mysticism. Hilton made his directorial debut last year with Babylon Central, a film that was, by most accounts, ridiculous. Set here, the film fetishized D.C. as a cradle of multinational evil; the protagonist was, naturally, a Vespa-riding DJ. The film’s synopsis: “When he fails to deliver an important package for his boss…Seb finds himself an unwitting participant in an economic power-play with a Saudi Prince as the Saudi government attempts to divest from the US dollar. As Seb begins to fall for the Prince’s daughter, his friends are dragged into the conflict. Throughout his struggle, the dark powers that operate in Washington, DC (modern-day Babylon) are revealed, and the Achilles heel of the US Empire is exposed.”

What the fuck?

Babylon Central seems light years away from the beautiful D.C. we saw in the video for “The Numbers Game,” the strong, funky cut from 2008’s Radio Retaliation, with guest vocalist Chuck Brown. In it, the go-go godfather was the star—Garza and Hilton just drove the sweet Caddy that escorted him through Southeast. Brown hung at a barbecue, shook hands, posed for photos, and basked in a happy, communal glow. On Culture of Fear, Garza—who moved to California last year—and Hilton have misplaced that spirit entirely. Lost in a placeless haze with no clear destination, Thievery Corporation needs to find a home.

“This is the real See-I sound,” announces the first track on See-I’s debut LP—and it’s a wonder we’re just hearing it. After two decades performing inside and outside the Eighteenth Street Lounge incubator, the duo is overdue for a proper album. It’s a dynamic release that struts with the confidence of experience.

Outside D.C., reggae vocalists Archie “Zeebo” Steele and Arthur “Rootz” Steele are probably best known as veteran Thievery Corporation collaborators. The brothers’ job, it seems, is to make Thievery Corporation more interesting. Zeebo’s toasting breathed life into “38.45,” the still-beloved drum and bass cut from the group’s 1997 debut; in concert, Rootz and Zee are the stars of Thievery’s gigs. But in D.C., See-I is the star of its own show.

If you’ve seen the band live (it’s not hard—they play often), you should know what you’re in for on this disc: roots reggae raised on rock and funk. Smooth, bottom-heavy, and ominous, “Dangerous ” carries a sweet melody on top of a deep groove; “Dub Revolution,” probably a reference to dub pioneer Lee “Scratch” Perry, is a catchy tribute to the soul and dub reggae roots See-I sprouts from. The D.C.-repping “Homegrown” —one of See-I’s most raucous live songs—starts out sounding like Funkadelic, then just becomes Funkadelic: One of its refrains is cribbed from “Standing on the Verge of Getting It On.” “Haterz 24-7,” a pretty standard haters-gonna-hate track, also doesn’t win points for originality, but is propelled by the brothers' charismatic, easy synergy. Zeebo is the cool toaster, Rootz the sweet crooner. It’s an appealing dynamic they have honed since childhood.

The album unravels toward the end; none of its trippy, space-traveling material is particularly memorable. But at its most focused and energetic, See-I seals its reputation a versatile and magnetic party band. It’s too bad they’re missing from the latest Thievery record. Culture of Fear could use the adrenaline shot.

Illustration by Brooke Hatfield

Blog Widget by LinkWithin
  • Eric Hilton

    Ally,

    You're opening quote in your bitter article about how sad I am is a perfect choice. 11 years ago I was interviewed by another 20-something 'journalist' named Jason Cherkis. At one point in his informal interview, he kept emphatically stating, "you guys are jet-setter, aren't you." He must have said it 5 times. To humor him, I responded, "Ok Jason, we are jet-setters." Then, he prints the quote "We are jet-setters" as if it came from me unsolicited. That is serious BS.

    In short, I've lived my whole life watching the demise of the City Paper and it's journalistic standards. It's always one under-paid, kid with an axe to grind. And you did a great hack job on me, Rob and our endeavors. Congrats on that success. It must taste so sweet.

    Ally, life is not easy. Doing things like making a record, or opening a bar, or making a movie is not easy. Taking cheap pot shots from a two-bit operation on Champlain Street is easy. I hope this is not all that you do. Perhaps you could have at least interviewed me, to get to know me, and I to know you. At least you could have then included a few misquotes in the article.

  • Anonymous

    As a loyal fan of TC, I agree the new album is a bit of a let down. It lacks originality, which I expect and have admired about their sound. The opening track, "Web of Deception" sounds like an Ableton cut and paste project from “Holographic Universe.” Actually, the album sounds as though it was conceived and produced in an entirely different manner from their previous work.

    However, their recorded stuff is not what keeps me a loyal fan, and I definitely will not be selling my Red Rocks tickets anytime soon...

  • kalani

    I normally never comment on reviews, everybody is entitled to an opinion. Who am I to say something is good? What is sad is that the focus of this 'review' seems to be more about you taking shots at Rob and Eric as people rather than focusing on their music. They have created something that has provided countless people with a lot of joy. To me, that is the point of music. To create something that might bring people some happiness.

    So I ask this, what have you created Ally? An article attacking people because they claim to be jet-setters? Or the typical DC Hater lines of 'that sucks' in reference to some club, restaurant, band, or whatever. I love this CIty, but am so tired of all the negativity. I just don't get it. I am beginning to feel that this City is not conducive to artists. Can we take our heads out of our asses and try to actually work on building a sustainable arts community? As they say, united we stand, divided we fall. I have been to many other cities, I see how the local scene in many of these places is dedicated to supporting their artists, not tearing them down. How about we try actually building something in DC! How about we try not try and knock everything down. Lets accept things for what they are and be happy that people are trying to create positive energies is this CIty. Its hard enough with the transient nature of our City with all the government employees, it is only harder when the publications that are ostensibly here to help promote the arts seems to take joy in breaking them down. Its a shame.

    Its fine if you don't like the record. Talk about it! Don't take cheap shots at people you don't even know. I find it sad that this is what you chose to put your energies into. I expect more of this City. There is so much talent here and articles like this do nothing to support them.

  • http://anon.com anon

    full disclosure please Kalani - are you employed by, or work for in any capacity ESL Music, Thievery Corporation, or said parties thereof?

    the poorly written rant above denying 'jet-setter' status is insincere and misleading. how can one deny being a jet-setter when one of the Thievery Corporation t-shirts takes the Air France logo and rebrands it as "Air Thievery"? Thievery Corporation has embraced and become the embodiment of jet-setters; aloof, elitist and disconnected with the people.

  • kalani

    Oh yeah full disclosure, I used to work with ESL and Thievery and still do some work for them on occasion. If I wanted to hide that fact, I would have posted my msg as anon like you did.

    I also never denied jet setter status. The point is that it is bullshit to attack somebody on personal beliefs when your job is to review a record. What is wrong with being a jet-setter? You have a problem with traveling the World and experiencing different cultures and people?

    As to being poorly written, you are probably correct. i am not a very good writer, but at least I put my name on it.

  • Jason Cherkis

    Eric:

    Let's get something straight: There's nothing "informal" about an interview. By the time even I had come around, ESL and Thievery Corporation had attained something close to media saturation. So you knew that interviews aren't "informal." Did we hang out and drink Red Stripe? Yes. Did we listen to awesome songs? Yes. But so what? I had my notebook and tape recorder. I asked questions. You answered them.

    If you had a beef about the "informal" interview or your quote, you never told it to me no matter how many times I bumped into you. Nor did Rob. Nor did either of you mention it when I interviewed you for a feature piece for a glossy magazine. Or when I followed that up with a piece on Rob's rock band for Washington City Paper.

    Nothing. Not a word. Until now.

    The only reaction I remember from you, Eric, is that you told me you liked the cover story. That you thought it was fair....Now on to the rest of your very entitled comment:

    Maybe if you weren't jet-setting all over the world you'd know that WCP is a kickass publication filled with dedicated writers and reporters who do excellent work week in and week out--who have won national recognition and awards for their work.

    In recent years, two City Paper stories were featured in the Best Music Essays of the Year books. Our food critics have won James Beard awards. You get the idea.

    If you have criticisms of my cover story or this piece, let's hear them. But don't bullshit readers with your claims about being misquoted or whine about the ages of the writers and reporters. And please stop talking about how little we get paid. All reporters are underpaid!

    And please don't complain about how hard it is to make a record. You aren't a mental-health counselor. You aren't surgeon. You aren't a public school teacher. You are, judging by your comment, a pampered guy who works in a genre NO ONE REALLY LOVES.

    Your comment just makes you look like an a-hole. And even I know that you're not one.

  • Christopher Langford

    Ally,

    It's fine for you to publish an article stating your opinion of TC's latest album Culture of Fear, but for you to state "They Sound Homeless" is completely off base.

    After listening to Culture of Fear on repeat at work for three days, I can highly recommend this album to other Thievery fans and to others who have an appreciation for expertly produced loungey grooves. It's a tad too early to definitively rank COF amongst the other TC albums, but my initial thoughts are that it's exceptional and could be the most cohesive collection of tunes since The Mirror Conspiracy.

    My five star standout songs from COF are Fragments, Take My Soul, Light Flares, Tower Seven, and Stargazer - however I don't think this album should be cherry picked - the entire album is well worth the price.

  • Eric Hilton

    Jason. I like you. You are smart and funny, and I truly enjoyed my time spent with you.

    You did however misquote me. It's okay. It happens. I was not happy about it at the time, but it was a minor slight and I got over it. That's why I didn't feel the need to bring it up. But I must if it is the lead line in an article in 2011, written by a fellow CP journalist.

    As for the rest of your comments - fair enough. At least you actually know me a little bit - even if it was 10 years ago.

    And for the record, I do think you are an excellent journalist, so thanks for the rebuttal.

    Take care.

  • Christopher Langford

    Eric,

    Should you happen to read this my only complaint for Culture of Fear is that it took THREE YEARS after Radio Retaliation to be released - that's a loonnnggg time for a Thievery fan to wait for a new album!! May the next album not take so long - and may if you're so inclined, the more brass you put into the mix, the better. As far the tunes on COF - simply brilliant - I think it's outstanding - not to shabby for a couple of jet setters!

  • http://none Lee Berger

    Well I have say there are some strong opinions here about this album, and now mine. Eric/Rob, can't really say it is my favorite album nonetheless I like it. TC I would just like to thank you for enriching my life for all the years you have with your music and look forward to your future projects. I can hear in your music that you are aware of what is going on in the world even if others may not be to such a degree. It is refreshing to hear something different from the DMV area as the FM radios have dust on them in my car and home. To the journalist, I know you more than likely mean well and wish to be as informative as you can, however some of your statements seem to be laced with anger and or other negative emotions that honestly you don't conceal very well. Well that's just my two cents, hope I haven't offended anyone or angered them as I hope we can all just try to see the good in the things that come from within our community.
    Peace and blessings.

  • http://www.whiteyonthemoon.com Herb Smokewitz

    What you fail to mention in the portion of your article about See-I, is the fact that they are hosted, (by Hilton) at the Eighteenth Street Lounge every week which has allowed them to cultivate the following that they have today. Let me tell you, they certainly didn't create a genre of music. These guys cover ABC by the Jacksons. Yeah, it's a party and a good time, but there's not really any substance there either. This article fails to see the big picture. The music scene here in DC is being propped up by people like Hilton (not Hilton alone) who are actually providing new spaces and nourishing local talent with either the record label, or just weekly gigs in one of the clubs that he has helped to open. In a town where there is virtually no support or recognition for local artists, we go one step further and brutalize them in print if they become too successful? Pit friends like the Steel Brothers and Hilton against each other for the sake of "pseudo news entertainment?" It's not right, and it was a bad, poorly written article. The editors should have seen this as a vendetta'd slasher piece and toned down the hatred. At the very least, do your job as a professional and review the two records separately. Sorry you don't like Faux-hawks. Get over it. I don't like City Paper's music journalism, but I'm not going to attack you personally, and I'm certainly not going to call any of your personal endeavors to branch out "ridiculous."

  • Santo

    Ally,

    Scathing record reviews are an art. Perhaps you should browse Pitchfork, it could give you some insight into how to properly deliver them. You've missed the mark here.

    I enjoy this record in large because it is about TC and not about big name guests, collaborations. To me it embodies the hazy soundtrack to a humid summer night in DC much more so than this jet setting thing you are fixated on. To me it really supports what Eric's built in that way. If I was a writer, I think that would have been the angle I'd take to review it.

    I'd also suggest you relisten to 38.45. This is one of my favorite TC tracks, and from my memory, it is not a drum and bass track. People will be more prone to listen to your opinions if when you do use actual facts, you get them right.

    Have a nice weekend and be safe everyone.

  • http://www.fortknoxrecordings.com JonH

    Firstoff, please don't criticize me for my grammar and punctuation. I have read this article over and over again. I understand a critic's negative thoughts on a record. If you are an artist, musician, writer, actor, publisher, etc you have to learn to deal with criticism. It is all part of the game. From a business standpoint, it can be very beneficial. I seldom read a blog like Pitchfork, but if Pitchfork says an album sucks or is deeply critical, I become much more interested in checking the record out. After reading this article, I immediately listened Culture of Fear to make my own judgement.

    Something I will mention is that groups like Thievery Corporation, Deep Dish, and BT have helped pave the way for an amazing and vibrant electronic music scene in Washington, DC. Many producers and "jet setting" djs have spawned out of this town. Producers and DJs like Saeed & Palash, Fort Knox Five, Thunderball, Thomas Blondet, Tittsworth, Farid, Will Eastman, All Good Funk Alliance, Nappy Riddem, Empresarios, Dave Nada, and Nadastrom, If it wasn't for Deep Dish, you might not have been able to write your recent cover story on Dave Nada's newly invented genre, Moombahton. As Dave's production partner, Matt Nordstrom has done extensive engineering and production for the duo over the years, and I imagine Deep Dish has helped them with their National & International success.

    Another thing I wanted to mention is all of the great things Thievery Corporation have participated in. They have been heavily involved in charity work, the World Food Program and Oxfam to name a few. During the Bush years, very few people stepped up to get involved in the anti-war movement. Thievery Corporation had the guts alongside Ian MacKaye, Adam Aeidinger, The Coup, FK5, Thunderball, Joan Baez, Seth from 930/IMP, and many more, to get involved in a peaceful protest and concert on the DC Mall in front of the White House called Operation Ceasefire. I think this is very admirable and deserves a mention.

    We live in one of the greatest cities in the world, Washington DC. Our city historically and presently has a very rich musical heritage. Marvin Gaye, Duke Ellington, Chuck Brown, Minor Threat, Fugazi, Dischord, Henry Rollins, Nation of Ulysses, Bad Brains all hail from Washington, DC.

    To me, we should be all working together to put this amazing city on the map. All the attention always goes to LA, Detroit, and NYC! Let's make it about DC.

    This town needs to start getting some national and international attention as a musical hotspot. If we all work together, we can make this happen!

    JonH
    Fort Knox Recordings

  • andre

    As someone who picked up and was blown away by 'Sounds from the Thievery hi-fi' when it came out, let me say that the reviewer here, while unnecessarily caustic on the whole, makes a fair point about the thievery sound having become somewhat formulaic and sterile.

    But let's remember, with everything that was going on in the world around the time of the release of Richest Man in Babylon, I really thought that the lyrics and the sentiment of the title track and Heaven's Gonna Burn Your Eyes were really profound, even daring at a time when the US became an aggressor nation. On the other hand, the thing that bothers me a little bit is that sometimes TC appears to want it both ways: they take an admirable stand in their music against relentless greed that seems to cause a lot of suffering in the world, but at the same time they promote a lifestyle and outward appearance of material success - it seems to me somewhat contradictory because that outward appearance of material success is such a valued commodity in our society that it often does leads to relentless greed. Given the choice, anyone that emulates the jet-setting debonair style of TC will probably choose a career at Goldman Sachs over, say, teaching a new generation of citizens to be smart, considerate people. Which job will lead one to be the richest man in Babylon, wearing suits to sophisticated lounge while the homeless sleep in doorways? But if I want to wear those suits and fly around the world there's no question about which career path I need to take.

    I don't mean to imply that looking stylish and fighting the war machine are mutually exclusive. But still, there is a contradiction here that bothers me a little bit. Other than that, I'd day DC is lucky to have 2 driven people that create good music and beautiful settings to their town.

  • kh

    ha ha

  • Rex Riddem

    Maaaaaan, I sure hope I get a scathing review when my album come out! Bottom line, Thievery is dope! See-I is dope! Granted I'm not partial but both of these bands have worked really hard to achieve what they have accomplished. Opinions are opinions. I have my own about plenty in this town, even certain hip hop artists who claim to be from here but ain't. Oh sorry, I mean are not. All I know is people with pulitzers aren't going around correcting artists grammar.

    I think whats truly sad about the article is it seems to pit two groups that have a long history with one another against each other. DC is full of hate. When I walk around town hearing the most BS music being played in the most LCD of genres, in EVERY bar, club and restaurant, I then go to one of Thievery's spots and have my mind opened by original and or eclectic music.
    Again sorry for the bad grammer. I'll see you at the next spelling bee.

  • dc

    You're a millionaire who puts out electronica as a hobby, having fucked over a slew of musicians along the way with your thievery, yet you're so pressed to comment on a bad review?

  • Legends

    JERKIS strikes again - from beyond the CP grave! Does that punk ass beyatch ever go away?!?

  • Christopher Langford

    My appreciation for Culture of Fear grows each day. While the majority of the arrangements are complex, the mixes are sooo smooth - simply blown away by this album.

    Fragments - brilliant - hands down my favorite track.

    Thanks Eric, thanks Rob - groove on dudes.

  • Pamela Shadid

    Wow! After reading the article and comments and having worked with Thievery Corporation, I am left speechless. Everyone has a right to their opinion, but I found the article to be beyond critical, it was verbose and scathing. Ally, you remind me of a band girl wanna be. If you have ever spent anytime with the band, or knew Eric Hilton, you would not make these gross, out of your ass statements. From my small relationship working with them ( I managed Yasmin Youssef, the belly dancer who performed with them for a short time), and getting to know Eric Hilton, he is one of the most hard working, sincere, people in this city. It is one thing to have a studied opinion about the new album, but you tear him to shreds like you are a jilted lover. You need to take a closer look at your intentions.

  • Divinious L.

    Eric and Rob are excellent artists and producers. That is why their are world renowned, have played all over the globe and have 5 back to back sold out shows (9:30 Club)
    The article is tainted in a very negative light and seems like another jealous attack at Eric because he is a local success.
    As for the comments about work being harder for a brain surgeon or mental health counselor, the comparison of such different careers is ridiculous.
    It does take a lot of hard work to put an album together, maybe it's not as disgusting as being a brain surgeon but what people do with their ONE life is their choice. If you choose to teach at a public school, that is your choice or calling. Eric's calling is music, not mental health. HATER.

  • Divinious L.

    ** type-o's
    they are, not their are in the 2nd sentence.
    have played 5 back to back...
    sorry!

  • DCCP SUX

    A FINE example of informative journalist work brought to you by The Washington City Paper:
    http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist/2009/07/08/marion-barry-i-wouldnt-suck-your-dick-collectors-edition/

    Still my favorite....

  • http://www.billcrandall.com Bill

    Eric has done more than most people to make DC a better - and yes, cooler - place. His numerous businesses are quality places that do well, enhance the city, and often push the envelope (there were no lounges before ESL).

    He's a local guy who is world-minded in the best sense but has stayed fiercely local, often insisting on working with local talent in many of his endeavors to cultivate the DC scene.

    His music is respected around the world, and is DC's greatest current claim to musical fame. ('A genre that no one really loves?' Huh? That is just a stupid statement.)

    He's a smart, sincere guy who works his ass off and puts his money where his heart is, and hasn't changed much in the 25+ years I've been happy to call him a friend.

    This article just reminds me why I don't read City Paper. And how astounding it is that DC can't get its minor league head out of its ass sometimes.

    Criticize the music if you want, you're entitled and don't have to be a cheerleader (though I find it a very satisfying listen). But you seem strangely compelled to tear down the whole package.

  • Ally Schweitzer

    Commenters: Please, some perspective. This is clearly a very negative review. But it is not a personal attack. Everything I trot out is above the belt. Eric Hilton's businesses, records, and movies are not his personal business---they're intended for the public.

    If you look closer at what I criticize above, it is limited to Thievery Corporation's recordings and Eric Hilton's directorial debut. I reference some of his businesses, but I don't trash them. I refer to them (many of which I really love) as stylish, and I say some of them have Anglophilic names. I don't even imply that the jet-setting thing is negative---but that quote from 1999 says a whole lot about Thievery's international player aesthetic, past and present. (Hilton, I am sorry you think you were misquoted---but next time, don't wait 12 years to say something.) I then locate that aesthetic in Hilton's restaurants. If I went on to say how much I loved Culture of Fear, many of these characterizations may have been interpreted as neutral, even positive, as they were intended.

    I have no doubt that Hilton is as hardworking and friendly as his friends, fans, and employees say above. But of course I didn't get to know Hilton before writing the story. Journalists do not have to personally know their subjects to write about products they are selling to the public.

    I also don't pit See-I against Thievery. My opinion is that See-I makes Thievery more interesting, that they're fun performers, and that the first half of See-I's record is better than Thievery's record. I think they could have lightened up what is otherwise a very self-important album. One commenter says I shouldn't pit these old friends against each other---right after s/he blasts See-I for being totally indebted to the ever-superior Thievery Corporation. Damn. And you thought I was cold.

    Commenter Pamela---They just made a bad record. The sexism in your comment is glaring.

    Commenter Santo---"38.45" is a drum and bass production. And yes, Pitchfork is absolutely the best place to read top notch arts criticism, just like Jumbo Slice serves the most authentic Neapolitan pizza in the D.C. area.

  • Lady L.

    About the MUSIC. That bass line in (song above) is HOT!! Didn't love the speech intro that much but the music has a nice updated Thievery Corp. sound and is easy to groove to. Well produced like they always do..
    I haven't checked out the whole album yet but I like that they took a hip hop turn, at least on the track above.
    The ARTICLE wasn't so much of an album review but more of a personal review about what Eric Hilton is doing in Washington D.C. Seems like an attempt at sensationalistic journalism..I heard about this story via word of mouth not because I'm an avid WCP reader.
    I don't really care what he does, doesn't affect my life at all, but it seems like he really likes this city and that's why his businesses are here.
    LASTLY, the See-I guys are from North Carolina, they aren't Jamaican and I highly doubt that they are patois-fluent.

  • Pamela Shadid

    Ally,
    I am glad I caught your attention. I was hoping to. It was intended to take a bit of an "unwarranted" jab at you in the same way that you did at Eric Hilton. That is fine, that you think they made a bad record, but read your article again and see that your intention to present your opinion is far more than that "they made a bad record."

  • andre

    Ally,

    You (also) seem to want it both ways: you criticize, quite harshly, Eric's entire TC "empire" and yet you want your article judged as a mere record review.

    And no, 38.45 is not a drum and bass production. Your insistence on this point calls your musical judgment into question.

  • http://www.whiteyonthemoon.com Herb Smokewitz

    Ally,
    You're literary comprehension is severely lacking. Either that, or you are assigning selective meaning to what was said. You also obviously don't understand what drum and bass is, either. Check out Goldie, or Roni Size. Then listen again to 38.45.
    I'm glad you commented again. The more you say, the more immature and uninformed your opinions are shown to be. I saw your tweet about how Rob and Eric invest in gold. So.......what? You don't like rich people? Okay, cool. If you were an artist, Ally, you would know that you can't just sit there and make art. You have to feed yourself and the ones you are responsible for. If money wasn't part of our society at large, the world would be a better place, but criticizing somebody for simply mastering the system that we are all FORCED to participate in if we want to be part of said society is short sighted. At least they aren't polluting the environment with toxic chemicals, or chopping down rain forests. You just hate them. Admit it, and admit that it's not just the music that you hate. It's them.

  • http://www.bluebra.in Ryan Holladay

    I was 15 when that first CP cover story came out -- and, despite how Eric may feel he was mischaracterized, that was a big deal for me. It made me feel like there were people making music and changing the landscape of DC. I like to think this article may have the same effect on someone else, despite Ally's conclusion about the music (which she is completely entitled to)--there might be someone just learning about what these guys have done for this city, musically and culturally.

  • OriGinal

    "Wealth, like happiness, is never attained when sought after directly. It comes as a by-product of providing a useful service."
    Henry Ford

  • Nolan

    Ally, did you intern at James O'Keefe Inc? A lot of flippant critiques that make the article appear to be driven more by agenda than fair criticism.

    Next time you want to bash an album, go right ahead, but when you give biographical information about a person, present the facts (sans inflammatory declarations about the person) and let the readers decide if they approve of that person's history/lifestyle/philosophy or not. A journalist that goes on character assassination without speaking to that person for a response, especially when they reside in the same city, is being lazy.

  • Versus

    Gentlemen of Thievery:

    Keep the faith. Thank you for so much beautiful and moving music, as Thievery and via the ESL label. Thank you for remaining idealistic and positive in the cynical music "industry", and showing that it can be done, "it" being "making your own way in music".

    It's much easier to destroy than create. Don't let the destroyers jam your creation.

    Peace.

    - Versus

  • Dan Cooper

    Ally...you're certainly entitled to your opinion...you're apparently (under) paid for it...and you brandish it in a way that would make Karl Rove take notice (I know you like Bush-era references). I mean, look at all of the intense dialogue you've sparked by disguising what's for the most part, a general indictment that goes beyond music, and character defecation, as a record review! Your "review" feels more like a Mean Girls moment trashing some pseudo-faux rival, who really is just a projection of some deep-seeded insecurity which you think you can masterfully mask as clever, biting wit...where getting enough OMG's and NO YOU DIDN'Ts is the purpose, and productive commentary is for losers.
    Granted, there were some substantive observations, but you obfuscate them by shitting on your subject before you get even get to them. By the time you start talking about the record, the reader (if they don't already have an informed opinion) probably already feels the artists are self-important hypocrites...but who better to report on that than you. Because through this article, that's what you come off as. It's obvious from this article that you have a long held disdain for Thievery. Why do a review? Yes...you admitted the review was negative. Congratulations...that must have been really hard for you. I normally wouldn't make a public comment, but I hope anyone who may have been swayed by your bullshit about this record or any other, will read my comment and possibly reexamine their thoughts, check out the record and decide for themselves.

  • http://www.head-roc.com head-roc

    None of this would be happening if Thievery Corporation took care of the dc musicians who have made then mega millions over the years.

    The age of predatory use of local talent is coming to an end. You Will have to play for the right to say you represent this town!

    GODISHEUS challenges Thievery Corporation to a Battle of the Bands! Winner take all!

    You know where i am

  • Chason Jerkis

    I wish I'd knocked Jason Cherkis the fuck out when I lived in DC. What a sad fuck, please someone smash a bottle over that prick's head if you see him out somewhere. thanks.

    Also every single person that's written anything above my name here, go fuck yourselves; you're the reason why DC sucks so badly now. Yuppies!

  • Pingback: Don’t Be Bored: Four Good Arguments for Local Music | Punk Till I Die – punktilliDie.com

  • SNLDC

    I just listened to this album and searched for reviews and landed here. I agree with Ally and read Eric's defensive ATTACK on her, but not all the other comments. I respect any music review (what what it is) as a fan, and if you get a bad review, who cares? Deal with it and grow up. Thievery -1. All this is recycled fluff aka: been there done that.

  • http://www.univurshul.com UNIVURSHUL

    The past 2 months have been devoted to listening to Thievery's new album on a daily basis. I listen to this album as much as their first. Although, I'm biased, hear me out:

    These guys got me into indie LP vinyl collecting. I wouldn't know a thing about Cal Tjader, Nicola Conte, or Karminsky if it wasn't for artists like Thievery. I consider myself really fortunate.

    D.C. have a fucking killer scene on many fronts. Try writing that shit in a city plagued with awful sports bars, crap clubs and masses under the influence of corporate streams.

  • http://www.univurshul.com UNIVURSHUL

    and least we not forget art is also still a business. Disagreements, botched deals, unlucky events and fighting happen all the time, some people can't get a break, look at Charles Bradley until his early 60s. That is life. I work in art & design, and it's difficult.

    Labeling artistic collaboration as a predatory weapon against a successful independent(s) artist is bullshit. Stop bitching and blaze your own path.

    Back to Ally's Review: I think album's direction is different and welcome. I always find it entertaining that journalists need to piss on an artist when they try a new direction. There can only be one "Radio Retaliation".

    Any mention about http://www.wfp.org/? That's a public product push as well that
    your article is missing.

    What happened to thorough and fair journalism?

    What the fuck? --How about "fuck you".

...