The One Man Band Broke Up
Fake Four founder Ceschi Ramos has returned to the fold with his first solo effort in four years by way of the gloomy, conceptual The One Man Band Broke Up. Not only does Ceschi seamlessly fuse hip hop, folk and psychedelia on the new record, he does it with panache. In an industry flooded with artists deluded into seeing themselves as jacks-of-all-trades, Ceschi is the real deal. He can transition from a straight folk ballad (“Lament For Captain Julius”) to rapid-fire, tongue-twisting flows on the next track without missing a beat.
The One Man Band Broke Up tells the story of a well-traveled musician at odds with the industry and himself. Ceschi speaks through the character of Julius & the Bearded Saviour as he weaves narratives about the perils of the road, failure and self-destruction. “Bad Jokes” is a gut-wrenching anthem of defeat set to an exquisite composition by Germany’s DJ Scientist, who produced the entire album. While it is a concept record and thus prone to recurring themes, it bears mentioning that The One Man Band Broke Up is engulfed by suicide and death. And there is little offered to remedy the fatalistic polemics as Ceschi declares “When they reminisce over you and speak as if your life is through, it just might be true.” Even the album-closing “Julius’ Final Song,” with its warm and uber-infectious chorus, speaks of the musician meeting his end in a hotel room.
The supporting cast, largely consisting of Fake Four labelmates, is essential to the album’s success. The chopped live instruments and cinematic drums of DJ Scientist provide the dark sound clouds for Ceschi’s perpetual rain storm to descend from. Mic King, Shoshin and Ceschi’s brother David Ramos blend nicely on “Hangman,” tied together by a dreary Led Zeppelin-inspired chorus. Sole rips the beat with an elastic, hungry flow on “Long Live The Short Lived” as he and Ceschi trade tales of swan songs and lost causes.
“The moral of the story is: no one really gives a shit, but don’t cry for the swatted flies, they loved what they did.” Ceschi’s imagery draws the listener into the fable from the opening bars of the title track. A gifted storyteller can make any subject matter appealing even if it is flanked by nooses and razor blades. Ceschi brilliantly captures the beauty of the musician pouring his soul into his craft in spite of the transitory and often-unappreciated nature of such an existence. As melancholy as these 13 tracks are, the memorable lines and top-shelf production will have listeners nodding their heads to the rise and fall of Julius. Aside from a couple filler tracks, The One Man Band Broke Up is one of the best conceptual hip hop records to drop in the past decade.
Song you’ll remember in five years: “Bad Jokes”
Line you’ll remember in five years: “And the story goes he cried like a baby as he tied the noose waiting for someone to come and save him” (from “Bad Jokes”)
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