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Gold Chains and Sue Cie - When the World Was Our Friend

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Artist: Gold Chains and Sue Cie

Album: When the World Was Our Friend

Label: Kill Rock Stars

Review date: Oct. 26, 2004

Mock-hop maverick Topher Lafata, a.k.a. Gold Chains, is trying to expand his palette. The Bay Area informed his early electro/rap adventures, but these days his style seems less geographically grounded. Teaming up with fellow Californian Sue Cie as well as pals Kit Clayton and Vladislav Delay, Gold Chains offers When the World Was Our Friend, an irreverent sprint through UK-style club music and playful street rap. While he hasn't entirely re-invented his wheel, there is the sense that the MC/producer might be getting tired of his own schtick. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem sure of where to go next.

If you’re in the mood for nothing more than a breezy good time, Gold Chains delivers as usual. Opening track "Better Together" is both a declaration of intent, and an embarrassingly bad song. I like fun as much as the next guy, but I don't enjoy being told how to go about having it. Lines like "Up, up the levels / Lookin' for some trouble / Sweet thing up in the club / Movin' to the treble" are tired right out of the gate. Ironic distance has saved many artists from critical scrutiny (Har Mar, anyone?), but unless you missed out on Beck's Midnight Vultures, you might want to skip ahead.

The track "High Tide" fares better, containing a level of lyrical substance beyond Gold Chains' typical "check-my-zany-science" puffery. It's not exactly a masterpiece of verbiage, but Sue Cie and Gold Chains manage to capture the butterflies and bullshit that accompany the early phases of courtship . Think of it as an electroclash "I Got You Babe." Over a predictably silly amphetamine bounce, the two MCs drop staccato prose - charmingly recalling the "fuck it" feelings brought out through libation and romance. Moonshine all night / It smells like piss / I told you I would like to die in your arms / If you'd ever believe me," the duo declare with an odd believability.

The song "Runaway" finally allows Sue Cie to step out from under Gold Chain's shadow, and it's a relief to hear her temporarily cut loose from his grandstanding style. The tune suffers from the same "are-we-or-aren't-we-serious" complex that plagues the entire album. Yet, there are still moments of inspiration: Track for track, When the World Was Our Friend is saved by flashes of lyrical brilliance. There's a certain grace to the line: "I know a lot about paradise / The ins and outs / The loss of life / Well ahh, come on, come on and kiss me." Unfortunately, the observational heart of the disc's best rhymes are obscured by manicured eccentricity and musical dilettantism.

With such an obvious ability to crystallize emotion into rhyme, Gold Chains and Sue Cie should be able to turn out something less disposable than When the World Was Our Friend. Maybe next time.

By Casey Rae-Hunter

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