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Thievery Corporation - The Richest Man In Babylon

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Artist: Thievery Corporation

Album: The Richest Man In Babylon

Label: ESL

Review date: Oct. 28, 2002

This Is Our Muzak

I love the missus for many reasons. There’s the sex. And there’s a certain laconic brilliance that shines like a Maglite in a moviehouse sometimes.

We were driving back from the beach. She’d just gotten her license reinstated. She’d been behind the wheel for an hour or two, and hadn’t quite gotten back into it yet. She needed a nap. I took over and put on the new Thievery Corporation album; just loud enough to know something was on. I didn’t want to keep her awake, and I didn’t feel much like paying attention. Before she nodded off, she said:

“This is what the cool people listen to.”

We’re going straight to hell, kids. If there’s hell below, we’re all gonna go. We’re going to boil in a bubbling cauldron of the oil from the pores of Sebadoh fans. And some of us will be so good at ironic, detached assimilation that we’ll affect an enjoyment of hell. We might never figure out whether we’re in heaven or hell. Which, if one believes the existentialists, is a pretty solid working definition of hell.

Our legacy? We’ll force a lot of Fugazi and Blackalicious on our kids, which will no doubt bore them to conniptions. They’ll be more interested in Neptunes and Green Day, having no more reason to reject them than we have to give the condescending stinkeye to Tommy James. (Our young’uns won’t give a shit about The Apples In Stereo, either.) And then there’ll be a more interesting, less easily defined legacy, passed on through discs like The Richest Man In Babylon. Provided this once great nation doesn’t rot through completely, this record will take over for Herb Alpert and “The Girl From Ipanema.”

It’s hipster Muzak, in other words. All ESL records are essentially “beautiful music” with a dash of urban flava, and can be enjoyed as such. Some can be probed for menacing subtext. Not Thievery Corporation. Break out your Physician’ s Desk Reference and Blue States can be melancholy, Thunderball can be paranoid, etc. This DC crew brings the straight tapioca.

The Corp goes slightly “exotic” now and again. There’re smoky leads from weary sounding women. And there’s a tabla.

The Richest Man In Babylon is strictly background fare. If you run a coffeeshop, you’re cooking with gas. If you’ve got a paper to write or tables to wait, it can pad out your skull. But I can’t imagine desiring to experience it through headphones. Even if I were a cool person. I imagine I’d be busy hitting on other cool people.

Shit, it’s less dull than Tortoise.

By Emerson Dameron

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