PPT’s Denglish 


By Ken Shimamoto 

Since we last heard from ‘em, on last year’s Tres Monos In Love, the three rappers-producers-conceptualists-nutballs in PPT – Pikahsso, Picnictyme, and Tahiti, to give ‘em their names – have toured nationally, garnered praise from mass-market rags like SPIN, and been voted “Best Hip Hop Artist” in the 2007 Dallas Observer music awards. Clearly poised for mass-ass acceptance ‘n’ success on an Outkast/Gnarls Barkley level, they’ve followed up with Denglish, a concept album whose curious title is based on a mashup of  “Dallas” and “English,” filled with music that, in similar fashion, conflates hip-hop and Britpop signifiers.  

Perhaps inspahrd by Gnarls Barkley’s Abbey Road sesh, PPT’s members adopt faux Brit accents – even when they’re claiming their hometown, as on “Dallas Got That Soul,” “God Save the ‘D,’” and “Dallas Lady,” which features the immortal line “conspiracy love on the grassy knoll” -- and alter egos: Seth Wayne Garphunkel, C.L. Pasio the Third, and Professor Magnus Pyke. (Dunno ‘bout the provenance of the other two, but Dr. Magnus Pike was a real-life Brit egghead, eccentric, and media figure who played the mad scientist in Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science” vid.)  The album’s artwork is very Beatles Yellow Submarine-referential, with the three monkeys from Tres Monos In Love peeking out from behind PPT’s cartoon images, and Big D done up like a Daisy Age Swinging London. The short film on the accompanying DVD is shot in B&W in the manner of A Hard Day’s Night and features a dastardly villain (played by Chomsky guitarist Glen Reynolds, whose evil axework is all over the CD), complete with evil accomplice, and a silly musical number. 

They would have done better to 86 the accents, which tend to come and go the way they did with that kid in your high school play, but the mannerism doesn’t detract from the quality of the songcraft, which is what’s really happenin’ here. After introducing the concept, PPT hits hard ‘n’ fast with three showcases of their signature strengths that are as good as the best songs from Tres Monos – “Dallas Got Soul”’s loping Dirty South groove, “Who’s That Girl?”’s nod to ‘80s Gap Band synth-funk, and “Jubilee (Til the Sunlight)”’s bustin’ out old-school ebullience. Then the weirdness begins. “Save It for Another Day” sounds like Bell Biv Devoe woulda if Ray Davies had been their lyricist. On “Love Crimes,” guest vocalist Cory Watson (from Idol Records stable mates Black Tie Dynasty) does a convincing job of evoking the heyday of Anglo depresso-rock in the form of Morrissey, Ian Curtis, and that dude from the Human League. “American Weirdo,” with Reynolds’ super-compressed acoustic mixed high, mashes up Sgt. Pepper’s music hall pastiche with a Fab Four “yeah yeah yeah” chorus. And “God Save the ‘D’” hits like Sir Nose D’ Voidoffunk in A Night At the Opera

For all their wiggy bits, PPT prove themselves to be basically a reality-based crew with “Daydream,” the album’s best lyric, which casts a disapproving eye on a fella with his head stuck in the clouds (or where the sun don’t shine): “You’re wasting all your time / With all your silly dreams / There’s work to be done.” And they save the best for last, closing Denglish with “To Me Mum,” Tahiti’s heartfelt addition to the canon of hip-hop mom songs (Tahiti’s late mother, a special education teacher, woulda been mighty proud of her son when he performed at the Black History Month assembly of a school for medically fragile, multi-disabled kids here in the Fort back in February), and “Coming Back,” a touring muso’s hymn to home. No sophomore slump here. Myself, I’m ready to see these guys on the Saturday morning cartoons like the Jackson 5, or better still, with a weekly sitcom like the Monkees. Hell, Pikahsso’s even got a wool hat…