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Published: 2005/12/12
by Jesse Jarnow

Screwed and Chopped EP – North Mississippi Allstars

ATO Records 016

Cough syrup swigging Lester Bangs would be proud of the North Mississippi Allstars and their Screwed and Chopped EP, which introduces Hill County’s favorite rock outfit to the Robitussin sluggers of Houston hip-hop. DJ Jimmy D bends six cuts off the Allstars’ recent Electric Blue Watermelon into deep psychedelic muck that alternately recalls Metallica ("Goat") and lo-fi Ween ("No Mo"). The results, which turn the Allstars’ consummate Southern rock into a melted collage of stuttering beats, oversaturated guitars, are utterly rude, completely offensive, and totally punk rock. It’s great.

Generally speaking, my main reaction to most new bands I hear is that they should slow down and be weirder. After hearing this EP — as far as I know, the first application of the screwed and chopped techniques to a rock outfit — the obvious solution is to screw and chop everybody! Especially jambands! For starters, the guitars sound awesome. Check out the way Luther Dickinson’s slide mutates sweetly on "Mean Ol’ Wind Died Down." For another, it brings a rapidly antiquating cultural form into the 21st century. (And, as a side note, it also goes a long way towards proving the heretofore unposited theory that sludge metal is just Southern rock at half-speed and a few octaves lower.)

Like John Oswald's terminally underrated "Dark Star" remix project, Grayfolded, Screwed and Chopped music reveals a host of new things about those being remixed. Regardless of whether the screwed and chopped phenomenon makes a large scale leap to white boys with guitars, it’s still a genuinely new expression in the pop vocabulary. Applied here, it reconciles two iconographic versions of the South: the highly romanticized Delta of crossroads and roadhouse bars where bluesman invented American music, and the economically distressed region splayed across CNN in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The South, of course, has always been both, but it’s rare to find a recording that so beautifully encapsulates that.

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