Nathaniel Merriweather Presents Lovage: Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By

So I downloaded this album over the weekend and I just listened to it straight through a few minutes ago.

All I have to say on first listen is damn. This album's the shit. Imagine the style of the smoother, darker tracks from Handsome Boy Modeling School (e.g. Once Again, Sunshine, The Truth) but with the obvious theme change the title implies, and comprising a full album. It's fantastic. If you liked Handsome Boy, you need to get yourself a copy of this album. Some of the spoken parts are funny (though, IMO, not as funny as the samples from Get A Life that were used on Handsome Boy), but at its core, this album's all about the mood that the beats set.

Maybe you're wondering why I insist on comparing this album to the little known Handsome Boy album. Well, this album isn't actually by someone named Nathaniel Merriweather. Nathaniel Merriweather is the alter-ego that Dan the Automator Nakamura used with Prince Paul (whose alter-ego was Chest Rockwell) on the Handsome Boy Modeling School album. Incidentally Chest (Paul that is) lends his vocals to a pretty funny opening track, explaining the benefits of using the Lovage album ("...you may have even tried ecstasy. But you haven't had real ecstasy until you've had Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By."). So yeah, if that sounds slightly odd, or vague, you just have to listen to the albums. They're both full of really out there, high quality hip-hop.

Considering modern pop culture as it stands is seemingly devoid of decent records to spin up and make out to, we should all, on the nature of his intentions alone, be crouching down and kissing Dan "The Automator" Nakamura's shined-up loafers for his latest effort, Lovage's Music to Make Love To Your Old Lady By. Looking at the lineup he offers (including Elysian Fields' Jennifer Charles, turntablist Kid Koala, rockstar and prankster Mike Patton of Faith No More and Mr. Bungle, and even an introductory endorsement from Automator's Handsome Boy Modeling School cohort, Chest Rockwell (aka Prince Paul)) and the kitsch-laden and practically velvet cover of the record (depicting Automator as Handsome Boy Modeling School graduate Nathaniel Merriweather langushing with a cigarette near a table. On the table lie three objects: an ashtray, a bouquet of a dozen rozes, a gun. Inside, the lyrics are printed over scenic greeting card vistages of beaches, flowery fields, lily padded ponds), you can easily make two assumptions, one of which will be right: either this is a gem of modern hip-hop that will be overlooked, misunderstood, or forgotten by the masses or it's a piece of big name laden trash that will find its place gathering dust on obscure record collectors' and used cd stores' shelves alike. Despite the purity of Automator's intentions, Music to Make Love... is a fun but ultimately forgettable piece of lusty tomfoolery that ends up being a parody-of-a-parody that sincerely wishes it weren't taking itself so seriously so it could loosen up and have some fun on a Saturday night.

As it is a concept album, of course, this record automagically has a few strikes against it: the very idea of a concept album relies on a necessary adherence to one of two broad rule sets: pretentious art house pap or funny record, neither of which typically make good background music for fucking. Still, Automator has a lineup of reputable and talented musicians at his disposal (did I mention Afrika Bambaataa ("the Godfather of Hip-Hop and Love"), Blur's Damon Albarn, and De La Soul's Plug 3? I did not. It is shameful) and there are some worthwhile things happening here. Chest Rockwell's introduction (courtesy of the Handsonium Institute in Sunny Palm Springs) is classic Automator, and its boasting insistence that this record is better than Ecstacy for picking up girls is possibly the funniest thing you'll hear during the record's sixty minute runtime. The first actual song on the record, Pit Stop (Take Me Home) starts off nice, deliberate, actually sexy. Jennifer Charles has a luciously throaty voice that, like Molly Ringwald's panties in The Breakfast Club, threatens to bring many a young listener into puberty a tad early. The first hint of a problem, actually, occurs a minute and forty seconds in when--

Actually, this is the root of many of the problems with this record. Almost every instance of revulsion and regret about purchasing this album occur during the moments when Mike Patton is opening his mouth: it ain't sexy and, even in context of the music, it's only funny through the first few listens. Patton's voice and lyrics are ridiculous and over-the-top in a way that sidelines the absolutely brilliant turntable work of Kid Koala and the sample mastery of Automator (name me one other booty grindin' album with samples from Airplane!). Thankfully Dan the Automator has provided us with an out: following suit with previous releases, there is an instrumental version out. Look for the cover that's missing Automator: that's the one to buy. It's kind of like a DJ Shadow record without all that residual trip-hop gloominess.

Even with Patton out of the picture, though, there are a few off elements that ruin the mood. There's very little variation on theme (again, the trappings of concept) and Automator's idea of "music to make love to your old lady by" seems to be chained down to mixing old Ennio Morricone and Henry Mancini soundtracks with Portishead's Dummy and letting them get their braces caught in an awkward attempt to make out on the couch. Even Charles' honey-and-whiskey fucklustiness makes a couple of the later songs sound like overly explicit outtakes from Poe's Hello. Inevitably, this record suffers from a decided lack of zowsers in the trousers: the funny isn't funny, the sexy is waylaid by said unfunny funny, and, after a couple of tracks, it just peters out, loses steam, and checks to see if there's anything interesting on teevee. Even the trademark Automator and Prince Paul minute or so long sample-laden tracks about pimps and STDs aren't as entertaining as similar moments on the Handsome boy or Deltron records.

Not all is lost, though; in this jumbled mush of almost realized tunes and funny-sexy-not-funny-funny-or-sexy-sexy lyrics, there are a couple of songs that would make suitable accompaniment to the old in'n'out. The select tracks featuring Charles and Patton would have to be Book of the Month and their dual orgasmic take on Berlin's 1982 club hit Sex (I'm A), featuring a gorgeous sample of a hooker talking about her married male clients and the root of their sexual problems with their wives. Outside of Pattonville, I recommend visiting all the instrumental tracks: Everyone Has a Summer, Lies and Alibis, and Koala's Lament. Just about every track on the instrumental record, too, is worthwhile: like I said, pick up the instrumental version instead.

My expecations for this record, bolstered by the now classics Handsome Boy Modeling School's So...How's Your Girl?, Del tha Funkee Homosapien's Deltron 3030, and Automator's seminal A Better Tomorrow EP, were, perhaps, a tad high. Ultimately, though, Automator had to make a decision to dedicate his efforts to make either a sincere and timeless record about getting naked and spreading whipped topping over your beloved or a half-realized, self-aware one-shot joke. The outcome nowhere near realizes the potential of either concept and, by the time the post-coital pancakes are flipped, the regret of its purchase has already set in. In the meantime we'll just have to rely on mixed beverages and Al Green, patron saint of Getting It On, when the occasion arises.

Track List:

  1. Ladies Love Chest Rockwell
  2. Pit Stop (Take Me Home) (Love on the road has always been special...)
  3. Anger Management (Take a deep breath and count to ten)
  4. Everyone Has a Summer (featuring Kid Koala)
  5. To Catch a Thief (There's nothing like a little excitement to keep the romance fresh...)
  6. Lies and Alibis
  7. Herbs, Good Hygiene & Socks featuring Afrika Bambaataa
  8. Book of the Month (You got your chocolate in my peanut butter)
  9. Lifeboat (imminent death makes the heart grow fonder)
  10. Strangers on a Train (feel the 4-wheel motion)
  11. Lovage (Love That Lovage, Baby) (featuring Sir Damien Thorn VII of the Cockfosters Clan)
  12. Sex (I'm A)
  13. Koala's Lament (featuring Kid Koala)
  14. Tea Time With Maseo (featuring Chármelle Carmel)
  15. Stroker Ace (three is the magic number)
  16. Archie & Veronica (love in Riverdale)
© 2001, 75ARK. All rights reserved. All songs written by Dan the Automator, Mike Patton, and Jennifer Charles, except for Sex (I'm A), written by J. Crawford, D. Diamond, T. Nunn, Universal Geffen Again Music/BMI.

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