- Warren Ellis at a conference on “how to improve reality” (I might have to sample this for a song…):
I think I would need to listen to the album again in its entirety — which is a quite a job — to really say how much I like or dislike like it. So I’m categorizing this under the “upon first listen” thoughts. Which can, and do, change. I’ve been up to date with Neil Young’s modern material since 2003′s “Greendale”, having listened to all his albums since then. And I like most of them. Fork In The Road was probably the weakest of the batch, followed by the ground shaking Le Noise (which, in a strange bit of artistic freedom, featured little to no percussion). So new Neil Young, or old for that matter, is nothing new to me. Hearing him with Crazy Horse in the world of cellphones and private space companies, however, is. Turns out Americana was just rehearsal for the big dance. They’re really bringing out the big (epic, long, operatic, etc) guns for this album. And that world of cell phones and nano-tech is not something Mr. Young wants to be a part of; he sings on the 30 minute opener, “When you hear my song now, you only get 5 percent, you used to get it all… I’m driftin’ back”. The instrumentation is a little nostalgic too, with the band hearkening back to their 70′s days of drawn-out freeform jams, mic’ed 30-watt amps, and that vinyl, analog sound. It feels good on the ears (even if it feels a little strange when just a few years ago Young made an album about retro-fitting his classic car(s) with enough modern tech to free them from gasoline), and it’s sometimes nice to hear the legends crave the old days.
- Then you’ve got Kendrick Lamar’s debut full-length which deserves most of the credit it’s getting.
This is probably the strongest Rap debut we’ve had in some time. I use the term “Rap” deliberately. The production is rock solid, rarely missing the mark. And the slate of producers, besides perhaps Just Blaze, are a little bit off-kilter compared to the sometimes predictable melody makers of 21st Century mainstream Hip-Hop. I always like Pharrell’s beats, and I almost wish he’d do an entire album for a guy like Kendrick. And what of Kendrick himself? He lives up to the hype. Well, most of it. A lot of the these lines are really thought provoking, more than what Top 40 Rap was giving us in the hey-day of materialism Rap, when the illustrious 50 Cent album “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” was the big anticipated album of the moment. Those days are gone, thank God. And Kendrick Lamar, along with a whole slew of new-ish rappers, are taking mainstream Rap into the 21st Century (finally) with equal parts style and substance. It’s nice to see. What this album is not, is “Illmatic”. This is not an “instant classic”. It might become a classic one day, but it’s not instant. In fact, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City might suffer a little bit from Dark Knight syndrome: levels of anticipation so off the charts there’s absolutely no way it can live up them. Which is too bad. This album isn’t breaking down any walls, it’s not shattering the paradigm Rap music exists in as it stands, but it is solid. And it’s the best mainstream Rap has been (w/ a few notable exceptions) in quite some time.