A perfect artistic expression of the chaos that is now.
Theo Parrish's We Are All Georgeous Monsterss is one of the more intimate looks into the life and thoughts of an artist who has always been adamant about the triviality of celebrity dance music culture. It seems to have been made entirely in response to the devastating combination of police brutality and the disproportionate ravaging of Black life due to COVID-19. Intros and outros spill over from one section to the next, dueling stories are panned hard to the left or right at times, changing the beat and songs on a whim. Piano interludes, house grooves, acid lines and thick basslines abound in true Detroit beatdown fashion. For once, the focus is not on the music but the words and their message.
The situations Parrish describes are a common occurrence for Black people, as the state of current affairs shows. His description of what should be a routine traffic stop quickly degrades into a harrowing moment. The cop does not care about Parrish’s son in the backseat choosing to dehumanize and threaten with violence. Another story involves getting turned away from a club as a teenager for not having proper identification (a common experience for people of color). The security were police officers that, true to form, decided to choke a young Black man for "talking shit." Blatant disregard for the basic human rights of Black people is a daily occurrence.
Art has always taken a back seat in American society. Since the 20th century began, Black artists have traveled to Europe to enjoy a level of economic and social freedom that is much harder to maintain at home. Relying on European society to pay the bills is a pitfall in itself. From observing patrons in Blackface at Paradiso in Amsterdam, calling out Dimensions Festival for non-payment of $20,000, to the infamous Berghain incident which remains the only time he has ever been kicked off the decks, the imbalance of having to endure microaggressions on all fronts in order to do your job is lost on many of the patrons of these festivals and megaclubs.
Some of the more powerful moments come from portions that appear to be sourced from YouTube videos. A snippet of a conversation between author James Baldwin and the poet Nikki Giovanni delves into gender relations between Black people. Michael Eric Dyson explains the nuances of systematic racism in easy to understand examples, such as sports and pop culture. One of the more illuminating parts is the debate between Jim Brown and Governor Lester Maddox on The Dick Cavett Show. Brown, a retired athlete, attempts to keep the conversation respectful only to be constantly interrupted and disrespected by the governor. It is an "all lives matter" moment before the term was coined, showing that the ideology is not a new phenomenon.
There are many unreleased compositions that act as the musical component to the project. If you have attended a Theo Parrish set in the last couple of years, you will recognize some of the tracks. One track (there is no tracklist) has Theo on vocals proclaiming one's right to be different over a signature style beat. Others continue in the strain of soul-drenched R&B productions with female vocalists that have been a focus of his output for the last decade. The project also includes a favorite which has been a highlight of his sets in recent years. A full-on P-Funk inspired groove with Parrish giving his best James Brown impersonation, grunts and hollering included. The ongoing evolution of Parrish’s artistic vision means most genres associated with African-American culture can be found in everything he touches. Just like his DJ sets, there are elements of jazz, spoken word, blues, funk, soul, techno and house. When he lets songs play out for a bit you start to get a taste of what you have been missing from the club, only for the tempo to drop and the return of that melancholy jazz piano. Reality comes rushing back to rain on your good time There are far more important things than clubbing to focus on.
The liberation and development of Black people will not be solved by tokens and handouts in an industry that does not listen or include us. Economic stability can never be achieved on a level playing field, equality cannot come about if all the participants are not conscious of their actions. We stand at a crossroads with an uncertain path not only for dance music culture but society as a whole. There is no more place for centrists, the writing is on all the walls, makeshift masks have fallen off for the world to see.
This review is based upon the earlier version released on 6/12. A newer release with slight differences has since been reposted. The new version was uploaded on 6/23 with some difference in editing, track selection and additional monologues.