We’ve long been fans of San Francisco’s Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, but seeing them again in concert at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles reignited our love for the raucous, experimental outfit.
Fronted by activist Thao Nguyen, the Get Down Stay Down throw down on stage and in song. On their latest, A Man Alive (Ribbon Music), they take their signature brand of skittish urban rock and infuse nervy hip-hop and avant-garde inflections. The production by tUnE-yArDs seems a natural step for the spiky gang. Percussion rattles along with Nguyen’s emotions, a clockwork sound with tinny, robotic drums.
A Man Alive presents the artist as flesh and blood, as well as steel. Tracks such as the anti-rape protest “Meticulous Bird” find Nguyen reclaiming her body — however she constructs it. The Beastie Boys/Cibo Matto scratch of “Give Me Peace” keeps annoyers at arms’ length as Nguyen sashays over errant xylophones.
Nguyen’s music isn’t so obscure that mainstream audiences would shy away. NPR fave “Nobody Dies” has a bombastic chorus that ponders the universal question of the meaning of life. And the Get Down Stay Down’s live cover of Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On” is badass. This multi-instrumentalist, progressive advocate and all-around cool woman ought to be among this year’s best-of countdowns.
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