Landing On A Hundred
Cody ChesnuTT’s first full-lengther in a decade, his second album proper, we’re lucky to have it I guess. It’s the result of a Kickstarter campaign, at least in part, to fund it. And it’s the result of a clawing comeback. ChesnuTT released The Headphone Masterpiece, a strange, brilliant big-serve of an album that contained – among many other great demo-sketches and song-snippets, The Seed. It was remade as The Seed 2.0 by The Roots (with Cody singing) and it seemed like we had a new soul/hip-hop superstar. A next generation Curtis Mayfield – one who was also happy to blurt out about his big black dick as he recorded song-versions of perverted fantasies; of what might otherwise have been visual diary entries by some lithium patient.
For Landing On A Hundred there’s still boasting – I’ve Been Life tells us “since my birth/I’ve been the greatest” but it’s very much about the comeback. That’s Still Mama is an infectious, obvious ode to Superfly-era Mayfield. And the record starts with a gospel message of hope, ‘Til I Met Thee. It feels like what a proper Terence Trent D’arby comeback should have sounded like.
Landing On A Hundred is fun. A lot of fun. There are slow jams and flat-out funk tunes. But it’s a bit too slick for anyone still under the spell of Headphone Masterpiece.
Everybody’s Brother plays out – strangely – like Darcy Clay’s Jesus I Was Evil, in that both are these humorous tales of redemption, the redemption coming simply from a sad clown deciding to pick their socks up finally; to lace up their boots. To step up. But Everybody’s Brother was actually better served when ChesnuTT first released it on 2010’s slight – but great – EP, Black Skin – No Value. There was that demo-sketch roughness to it. Here it’s all sugary sweet. But it’s a great song, making a cool-charm hook from the lyric, “I used to smoke crack back in the day” is in itself something clever, audacious, cheeky. And when it gets to the payoff – how in Jesus I Was Evil it was “now I help old ladies cross the street…” here it’s “But now I’m teaching kids in Sunday school and I’m not turning back” – even though it’s all a bit cute it’s still a great spin on a pop song. And, well, you know, it’s funny cos it’s true. In Cody’s case.
Somewhere in the middle of the album there’s a lull – Don’t Follow Me, What Kind of Cool, Love Is More Than A Wedding Day – they’re not bad songs by any means. But there’s a droop. The Curtis Mayfield-via-Terence Trent D’arby feel returns with Under The Spell of The Handout and we hear again, as was obvious across Headphone Masterpiece and on the first couple of tunes here, that Mayfield as a lyricist was a clear influence on Cody.
It’s not quite the album I wanted all up – but Headphone Masterpiece was (is) so special that I didn’t actually want another version of that; it’s clear that Cody (nor anyone, I’m sure) could repeat that. And it is good that he hasn’t tried.
The Stevie Wonder-ish closer, Scroll Call, is a good way to end, a reminder that we’re lucky to even have another album from Cody ChesnuTT: a great writer, a great singer, and someone who has worked hard to return, to be upstanding, to front up with anything at all.
And hey, maybe, just maybe, he could still have that big break after all…