RSS feed RSS Twitter Twitter Facebook Facebook 15 Questions 15 Questions

Lee 'Scratch' Perry: "Scratch Conquered"

img  Tobias

My Laptop won't read „Scratch Conquered“. It won't allow it to be ripped to my MP3 player either. If this were the album of a different artist, I would probably blame Copy Control. With Lee „Scratch“ Perry, however, the case is clear: Perry doesn't want his latest album to be ruined by the feeblish emissions of puny speakers or petty headphones. He insists on his audience listening to it on bass-heavy ghetto blasters, gargantuan boomboxes, mobile sound systems the size of car trunks or frighteningly decrepit analog stereos wired to speakers your grandma would consider outdated. And that's why he has forbidden every single computer and portable MP3 player to even read it. It's as simple as that.

For all the talk of Perry being a recluse and a madcap, his status as a legend has, if anything, only increased over the years. Engaged in a never-ending closet-cleaning which is still extending his catalogue by several albums' worth of vault-material each year, he has remained prolifically productive in the new millennium, still writing and producing like a man possessed. Recently, he was prominently featured in the documentary „Dub Echoes“, which traces back the roots of the genre and rightly presents him as one of its legitimate father figures. His MySpace presence has by now been visited by close to half a million people, some of which appear to continually discover deeper meanings in his lyrical offerings typically containing just as much seemingly random ASCI code as recognisable words. A website is in the making and unless he has hired a press agent to act on his behalf, Perry is even communicating directly with his disciples now, although most of his input is restricted to comments like „Congratulations God Bless“.

Even though he sometimes appears slightly whimsical to say the least, music still rules his world. An album like „Scratch Conquered“ is neither a crabbily serious late work nor a desperate stab at trying to sound youthful. Friends like Keith Richards and George Clinton feature on two or three occasions, but their names aren't demonstratively plastered to the front cover to boost sales or to prop up Perry's image – quite on the contrary, he is firmly in the driving seat on these collaborations as well. As a whole, the record is the completely natural and undeniably confident result of a lifetime dealing with Reggae and Dub, echo and electricity, roots and technology. It has a belligerent bite to it and a spicy energy which makes it sound rather like the ambitious opus of a hungry young dog than yet another full-length in a by now unfathomably vast discography.

Even though Perry may not have exactly reinvented himself on this occasion (his recent work with Adrian Sherwood has come closer in that respect), „Scratch Conquered“ does add a couple of noteworthy colours to his already rainbowtinged universe. Folk shines through, gentle acoustic Guitar washes blowing over the elegantly grooving drum tracks like a fresh breeze. A discreet RnB touch has infiltrated several tracks here, lending a strangely sensual touch to the show and revealing a remarkably vulnerable side to Perry's persona, as strident as his lyrics have remained over all these years. Most importantly, however, the sample-madness of early productions has notably made way for slim, fighting-fit and focused songs. It is not as though he hadn't written some memorable tunes in his Jamaican heydays as well. But the balanced combination of contagious melodies, catchy hooks, to-the-point arrangements, warm brass and (no longer monstrously dominant) Bass vibrations certainly does seem to herald a new phase and a fresh focus.

There are thirteen tracks on „Scratch Conquered“ and not a single one of them seems redundant. In fact, the record makes a point of moving quickly and yet keeping a sort of linear story line and musical narrative which manages to hold on to your attention at all times. The extremes of previous works have disappeared and to be quite honest, as much as Perry feeds from his experience, his Sound System days are over: Bass-heavy ghettoblasters and gargantuan boomboxes definitely no longer seam like the ideal media for listening to his music. Having said that, no laptop or MP3 player in the world could ever do justice to the rich sound and surprising nuances of this music. Even if there are ways of circumventing Copy Control, therefore, Perry's anathema should be respected for musical reasons.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Lee „Scratch“ Perry
Homepage: Lee „Scratch“ Perry at MySpace

Related articles

Perfect: „French Connection“
Wild-eyed chicken-rattle craziness: Tongue-in-cheek anything-goes ...
Concert Review/ Moritz von Oswald Trio
Live at Berghain, Berlin, September ...
LCD Sound System: "45'33 Remixes"
A coherent statement: Each remix ...
CD Feature/ Bvdub: "Return to Tonglu"
Real power for the integration ...
Net Feature/ Gabriel le Mar: "Dubwize"
Prods the ear with gentle ...
CD Feature/ Muslimgauze: "Jah-Mearab" & "Jaagheed Zarb"
Irritating factors like development: Slowly ...
CD Feature/ Jamie Saft & Merzbow: "Merzdub"
Utmost respect and utter disdain: ...
LP Feature/ The Black Dog: "Detroit vs. Sheffield"
No idolatry: Mutual respect does ...
Nightmares on Wax: Who would have thought so?
Nightmares on Wax are back ...
CD Feature/ The Orb: "The Dream"
Genial unpredictability: The Orb have ...

Partner sites