Ghostface comes on stronger than the reunited Wu-Tang Clan, and Om rumbles on
Ghostface Killah The Big Doe Rehab (Def Jam)
Wu-Tang Clan 8 Diagrams (SRC/Universal Motown) More of the same isnâ’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when youâ’ve been on a roll like Ghostface Killah. Heâ’s moved farther out of the Wu-Tang Clanâ’s collective shadow than any of his former colleagues with a string of â’00s albums that have staked his independence from Wu-Tang at the same time that they follow the basic Wu template: dense group rhymes, lengthy, mournful soul samples, and hard beats that sound like metal against metal. Either wayâ"as the fulfillment of the Wu-Tang aesthetic or as a solo artist whoâ’s outgrown his sometime partnersâ"heâ’s poised to become the Wu-Tang-er who matters the most, even when heâ’s repeating himself. With Olâ’ Dirty Bastard dead, Method Man guest-starring on Law & Order: SVU, RZA working on soundtracks, and Raekwonâ’s sequel to 1995â’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx still a rumor, Ghostface is starting to look like heâ’ll be the last one standing.
The Big Doe Rehab, Ghostfaceâ’s seventh solo album, is effectively a redo of last yearâ’s Fishscale. Itâ’s a uniformly dark disc, fueled by Ghostfaceâ’s anxious rhymes and supported by guest spots from Trife da God, Raekwon, Method Man, Cappadonna, and U-God. A few tracks stand out from the relentless beatdownsâ"the soul-funk of â“Supa GFK,â” the unaccompanied ballad â“The Prayer,â” performed by Ox, and â“Slow Down,â” Ghostfaceâ’s R&B duet with Chrisette Michele. The cautionary tales on â“The Prayerâ” and â“Slow Downâ” arenâ’t exactly convincing counterpoints to the crack narratives that make up the bulk of The Big Doe Rehab, but they do indicate that thereâ’s more on Ghostfaceâ’s mind than drugs and guns.
Part of whatâ’s been on his mind lately is the new Wu-Tang album, 8 Diagrams, the groupâ’s first disc together since 2001â’s Iron Flag. Ghostface and Raekwon have both complained publicly that RZAâ’s moody and claustrophobic production, with guitar, strings and keyboards taking precedence over samples and programmed beats, betrays 8 Diagrams. Itâ’s definitely a divergence, if not an outright departure: laid-back and narcotized where the groupâ’s classic albums were hyperactive and paranoid. Ghostface, Raekwon, and Method inject adrenaline on their versesâ"particularly Ghostfaceâ’s lines on the much-discussed â“The Heart Gently Weeps,â” a reinterpretation of The Beatlesâ’ â“While My Guitar Gently Weepsâ”â"but the rest of the crew often sounds as doped as the beats. RZAâ’s experimentation pays off on the delirious â“Get Them Out Ya Way Paâ” and the stoned funk of â“Weak Spot,â” but his solo beatnik recitation on â“Sunlightâ” doesnâ’t do any favors for anybody. The disc is, ultimately, a toss-upâ"different enough from the Wu prototype to demand repeat listening, but hardly the knock-out expected after six long years. â" Matthew Everett
Om Pilgrimage (Southern Lord) For two-piece stoner/doom/drone-rock outfit Om, heaviness is as much about mood and mindset as it is about volume and physical resonance. Their third long-player extrapolates on the same bass-and-drums format, the same whispering-rumination-to-bottomless-rumble dynamics, and the same impenetrably metaphysical lyrical themes as their first two offerings, to similarly potent effect. Even in their quiet, meditative moments, the Om duo are just as powerful as any guitar-toting brethren on their new label, the doom-friendly Southern Lord.
Which isnâ’t to say that Om donâ’t pack plenty of wham. When bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros kicks on the distortion pedal and jacks up the loud midway through the albumâ’s opening track (the title cut), you can feel your molars loosen, even with the iPod on low volume. His overdriven instrument howls and thrums with the voice of an angry deity.
The duoâ’s formatâ"Cisneros and skinsman Chris Hakius adhere rigidly to the bass/drum-set template, with nary a guest guitar, stray keyboard stroke, or corollary percussion instrument to be heardâ"leaves little room for experimentation; if youâ’ve heard Om before, you pretty well know whatâ’s coming. But that makes little difference to those of us whoâ’ve fallen prey to the heady power of the Om-drone; its hypnotic allure seems somehow, perhaps mystically, immune to the principle of contempt by way of familiarity. Bir Akeim. Salutes the Godhead. Vigilance. Lazarus. â" Mike Gibson
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