I didn’t buy very many albums that came out in 2007. Actually, I only bought 4 that I can think of off the top of my head. Here’s the skinny.
Beastie Boys The Mix-Up and Bad Brains Build A Nation
These albums were intentionally released on the same day and Beastie Boy MCA produced the Bad Brains album. That’s only one part of why I’m lumping these 2 albums together. These bands have long been associated with each other and have been recording for a million years (1980 Bad Brains, 1982 Beastie Boys). Another thing that these albums have in common is a lack of surprises. The B-Boys album is mostly made up of the funky instruental jams they’ve been making since 1992. It’s pretty much devoid of any hip-hop and I think the reason is clear: they were lazy. It takes a lot of time to put together a bunch of samples to make a good beat and just as long to come up with some stupid lyrics and memorize them. They probably wanted to avoid annoying fans complaining about long gaps between albums and they decided this would be the easiest way to get around that. There’s nothing wrong with the album but given the Beasties’ pedigree it doesn’t leave much of an impression. More than any other band I can think of, each Beastie Boys album was an EVENT, even including their lackluster 2004 effort. The albums never came out very close to each other and there was always something really NEW and exciting about each of them, not to mention that they were always jam-packed with 20-some songs. You didn’t even know which members of their extended backup band would be contributing.
The Bad Brains album certainly reflects more effort but not a great deal of innovation. It seems like they’ve been somewhat influenced by current trends, pouding out some bone-headed drop-D riffs while H.R. occasionally finds some strong melodies. Other tracks are stronger and, of course, there are the obligatory reggae tracks. Overall it just doesn’t have the immortal and iconic feeling that their earlier albums had. It’s a good album for Bad Brains fans but might not win anyone else over.
Both of these albums come across as a bit unnecessary.
Straight grade: B
Graded within the context of their overall careers: C
El-P I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead
lol – Nice fucking title. And the album? Booooooooooring. My overall interest in Definitive Jux Records was already on life support after weak efforts from Cage and Mr. Lif and this album may have completely killed it. El-P has always had some big weaknesses and this is the album where he gave in to all of them. One of these weaknesses is that he takes himself very seriously and clearly thinks he has some important things to say. He really lets this element run the show this time around, becoming as humorously dark and broody as Trent Reznor, who happens to be a guest on the album. This may be getting old, but El-P has also always been a pretty weak MC, but his beats have always kept him afloat. Now the beats are confused and boooooooooooring. I appreciate the fact that it doesn’t sound jut like his previous work but that doesn’t excuse it from being bad. Five years ago I found Def Jux to be a very exciting group of artists and now YAWN.
Straight grade: C
Graded within the context of his overall career: D
This is the 3rd album from the band that features former members of Faith No More and The Jesus Lizard and it’s easily their best. It’s also an interesting experiment in its own right. The band perused 100 year old transcripts of traditional Native American songs and arranged them for a 4 piece rock band. As Tomahawk is a metal-ish band with artsy leanings you might expect the songs to simply be typical metal songs with Native American melodies on top. Thankfully, the only thing hard rockish about the album are the instruments and the tones. The performances attempt to capture the feel and rhythms of the original songs. The band doesn’t riff away over straightforward rock beats. Instead, they play some variation of the main melody which results in a somewhat simple but haunting and powerful delivery. There are some missteps, like a section where singer Mike Patton does his dumb suave, talk-rap thing, but for the most part Native American feel is intact and works very, very well.