- The 2007 album I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead is one of my favorite albums ever. For real; no hyperbole. So when I saw El-P talking about putting the finishing touches on his next studio LP on the net — tentatively titled, but the title would remain, Cancer For Cure – I knew 2012 would be a good year for me musically. Then I bought the thing and it started with an ominous William S. Burroughs — my favorite writer ever; for real, no hyperbole — reading from his Nova Trilogy, I knew the album would be one of my favorites before barely a shred of material even hit my earholes. Let me back up though.
A great friend of mine heard the album before I did. No, not cause he torrented that low-quality, shit leak weeks in advance; because he pre-ordered the album and it came to his place a week beforehand. I didn’t because I miss buying albums the old fashioned way: waiting with anticipation for the release date (typically a Tuesday), then going to the record store and buying a copy without previously hearing any of it. His initial impression was that I might not like it as much as ISWYD because it lacked the progressive conceptualization of that album, and to a lesser extent El’s first solo-trek Fantastic Damage. He also said the features weren’t quite as jaw-dropping as ISWYD (Mars Volta blow me away every time). These things are true, but Cancer For Cure is still a hell of a victory in its own right.
The album is as cohesive — and definitely flows as well — as El’s previous albums, even if it is not as conceptual. Not a bad thing at all. And as much as I’d like to have seen C4C come across as the final piece in a trilogy of 2000′s albums for El, it’s refreshing to see him step so boldly into the post-DefJux, post-2000′s, latter-half, of his career. Lots of the reviews have been calling this “future music”. Though I would not argue with that description, El’s been banging out that brand of dystopian rap since Fantastic Damage. The obsession with paranoia, the nature of reality, and future landscapes has been there since he went a go at it himself; these themes, and many more science fiction based themes, appear vehemently on both his previous albums. This is not why C4C is “future music”, at least not for El. It’s future music because of what it represents to his already impressive catalog.
Easily and without question, this is El’s most accessible solo record. Accessible does not equal bad, accessible does not equal good. Accessible is a descriptive term on the nature of the sound, not of the artistic merit itself. You can very easily bang this album in your vehicle, with all the windows down, annoying someone next to you at a stop light who’s trying to carry on a cell phone convo. You can walk to it. Run to it. Shit, you might even be able to work out to it if you were inclined. Generally speaking, it is nod-your-head heavy shit: incredibly hard to play quietly, or dislike.
But not always. Flashes of that signature El-P break/coda/dreamscape production step in front of the rattle your teeth beats from time to time, always a welcome site. In fact, the end of the record might be my favorite third: a sort-of “cool down” period (maybe the work out thing is legit?) where C4C gets introspective and more complex musically. Feels good after being blasted to the ground and kicked in the ribs for 9 tracks or so. But before that we do get a little relief in short phrases and pieces throughout the disc.
That seems to me is the difference between C4C and ISWYD: the melodic breaks are still there, just not nearly as long (or, in some cases, repeated). This could be a lesson El learned on his last Megamix album: beats/phrases are presented to the listener, run through a single cycle, then shoved aside for the next thing in line. Probably what makes it so accessible. “You don’t like a certain section? Give me 30 seconds, you’ll have something else”.
C4C might not be the complex urban masterpiece of paranoia that ISWYD is, or the raw and unsettling post-9/11 triumph that FanDam is… but it certainly is it’s own complete and very well produced album, and probably as good as either of the other two. A very welcome addition to his impressive, if short, catalog. Here’s to hoping it isn’t another 5 year wait until El’s next solo adventure.