Len, again

Gin Blossoms

I’ve posted about Len and their 1999 album, You Can’t Stop The Bum Rush once before, but in a different-ish context, so I’m calling it ok to repeat a little now. Even though it’s now 12 (holy crap) years old, that album still sounds fresh to me. Maybe because it doesn’t sound like the late-90s at all; it borrows and mixes tiny bits from all over music history and every genre, which gives it an oddly timeless quality.

Len was a Canadian band inspired by early hip-hop, gospel, skater-esque punk-pop … and Kraftwerk? “The Hard Disk Approach” is a surreal electro-pop jam, “Cheeky Bugger” would sit nicely next to Blink 182, and “Crazy ‘Cause I Believe (Early Morning Sunshine)” has a chorus that could’ve come from Stevie Wonder. But instead of feeling like a disconnected stream of references and influences, You Can’t Stop The Bum Rush is bursting with the pure love of music. You can hear it spilling out of the speakers – Len just loves it all. Now that I think about, that may be the thing that keeps me coming back to this album after so long, it’s infectious.

But even with a huge assortment of influences, Len clearly loves old-school hip-hop the most. Like, the oldest school – Kurtis Blow and Biz Markie make appearances here, though I’ll never know how they got those legendary guys to join up with these crazy Canadians. And they get it just right – I agree, old school is the best school, and on songs like “Cryptik Souls Crew”, Len pay homage with respect, not with mimicry or irony.

What a shame then that Len never really got it together properly again. Apparently Bum Rush was their third album and there was another after, but the reviews I’ve come across (I haven’t had the chance to hear any of these myself) haven’t been kind. There was an odd magic that came together for just one album, apparently, that was sadly not heard by many. “Steal My Sunshine” was a really fun single and Len will probably be remembered as a one-hit-wonder because of it, but they had a lot more to offer on Bum Rush.

Poptastic Day: Man Of The Year

Len - You Can't Stop The Bum Rush

So here’s another forgotten one hit wonder from the 90s, but I don’t really understand why these guys were so ignored. It’s true that Len’s one actual hit, “Steal My Sunshine” was sort of typical faux-rap-pop (incredibly catchy, but not especially groundbreaking), but the rest of their 1999 album You Can’t Stop The Bum Rush was pretty unique. It’s actually a surprisingly diverse album – they’ve got some fun pop, some old school hip-hop, a really weird German techno-like song, and Biz Markie. Dude, what else do you need??

Len kind of disappeared on me, somewhere along the way, though I did keep checking for a new album for a long time. According to their wikipedia page, they had a bit of a struggle getting the follow-up to You Can’t Stop The Bum Rush released; it was finally released last year, but only in Canada.

It’s a real shame that Len got lost. I may be the only one, but I think that You Can’t Stop The Bum Rush was one of the best pop albums of the 90s. Sadly, I’m the only person I know that’s even heard of them, let alone bought their music, but I played the crap out of this CD. (Looking for a picture to add to this post, I came across this blog that also praises the band.) “Man Of The Year” may seem like an odd song to post, but it shows their willingness to mess with different sounds. I don’t know if this album is still even in print, but if you ever come across it, give it a try and I promise you’ll enjoy it.

   Len – Man Of The Year