Basehead’s debut, Play With Toys, is an album, but it’s also something more complex: the record’s bookended with a mysterious twangy bar band offering C and W versions of things like “Sex Machine,” and interspersed throughout is a bruising commentary on the songs. As main man Michael Ivey sings, voices assuage and contradict him, go off on their own arguments, press him for details or solutions, provide on-the-spot analyses of the tunes. Sublimely unaffected, Ivey’s impossibly laid-back, almost catatonic voice presses on, ruminating on being dumped, depressed, stoned, drunk, or pissed off; meanwhile a set of equally laid-back, groovily soothing backing tracks percolate underneath. You’d have to call Basehead some form of rap; Ivey never actually sings, he’s black, he dutifully includes some scratching, and he obviously knows all the moves. But almost every song has live guitar and drums, the overall sound is closer to Smokey Robinson than Public Enemy, and who ever heard of a rap album with songs so lulling, nuanced, and racked with ambivalence? Again, you could argue that it’s something more complex. Exactly what, you ask? Okay: it’s a relaxed (you’ve heard of psychedelic hip hop? This is Demerol rap), portentously brilliant hybrid of rap sensibility, rock smarts, pop moves, and world-class chutzpah. If Ivey can pull it off live on a stage (he’s got a three-piece band and a DJ with him), watch out. The band plays fourth on a five-band bill that also includes a fashion show; they should go on around 11:30 PM. Wednesday, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Renisha Hope Anderson.