Monday, January 21, 2008

The Return of the Wu, sort of

This December, the Wu-Tang Clan released two highly anticipated albums. The first was Ghostface Killah’s seventh solo album, “Big Doe Rehab.” The second was the Wu’s fifth album, “8 Diagrams.” Even before “8 Diagrams” was released, Ghostface and Raekwon were publicly bitching about the RZA’s production. Turns out they were half right. “8 Diagrams” is a drab, humorless album. The beats are sparse, cinematic, and dark, but lack the bounce of earlier RZA work. This is a more morose, pensive RZA, and while the tracks are interesting, they aren’t necessarily a lot of fun to listen to.

The jazzy “Take It Back” is mellow but enjoyable, and “Wolves” is fairly funky. My favorite track is “Stick Me For My Riches,” which is an over-the-top R&B number. In between the good tracks, however, are filler like “Sunlight,” and the embarrassing misstep “The Heart Gently Weeps” which mangles the Beatles’ “My Guitar Gently Weeps,” mostly with the decision to have the Wu SING the chorus. Ugh.

Also, the crew sounds phoned in, which may have been the case. There are tracks where their vocal levels sound off, and it just never coalesces into a coherent product. It’s a bunch of (talented) mcs dropping unconnected rhymes over sparse beats. It isn’t horrible, but it isn’t great, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it weren’t the last Wu album in a long time/forever.

“Bid Doe Rehab” is even more disappointing, and sees Ghostface ending the winning streak that began with Fishscale. Part of the problem is that this is the third album he has released in eighteen months, and he is running out of ideas. He goes for the same “crack tales over soul beats” formula that worked well on Fishscale when it was fresh. Here he just sounds like he is wigged out on too much of his own product, and the result is shrill, frantic, and annoying. The beats aren’t even that spectacular. It’s almost impossible to listen to all the way through without getting a splitting headache, and it feels very inessential. He needs to take some time off, go back to the drawing board, and come back fresh and refreshed.

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