As The Roots have amazingly become the world's greatest house band sharing stages with the President, Prince and Paul McCartney on national TV, it's pretty clear they're not even really trying that hard anymore on these LPs.
What's left of the band that was grinding thru the 90's/early 00's doing 250 dates a year knows that they're not gonna eat off records or tour money.
They've grown up & gotten a steady well-paying gig with benes and endless networking opportunities.
They've more than earned it and I'm proud of how far the boys have come since the Middle East club days doing shows with Jeru, playing out on South Street durino-g their humble indie beginnings around Organix in the early 90’s or even before then dwelling in the shadows of Boyz II Men at The Academy of the Performing Arts High School while their musical director was still waiting for the right time to tell his musician father (Lee Andrews of pioneering Philly doo-wop act The Hearts).
Yet Questlove, currently the hardest-working-man-in-show-business, is a student of the game and knows what affectations/associations will serve to maintain his Metacritic score each time out.
But like an old friend who has to keep it true, it's time to admit that we've now been hearing some variation of this same blueprint for ten years.
And I won't even get into the records growing increasingly darker in content and aggressively more 'difficult' as some sort of subconscious antithesis to the crowd-pleasing band you see on TV.
What you end up with is skillfully played but somewhat ponderous music cloaked in all the accoutrements and murky meaningfulness that the critics/certain fans will proudly proclaim they like but long-term very few truly love.
A month or two after this album when they do a show in New York/Philly/LA, the band will be back to playing Next Movement, Proceed, backing other artists and closing with You Got Me/Seed 2.0.
We're in that 2000s Sonic Youth, post-70's Lou Reed, last 20 years or so Woody Allen, Neither Fish Nor Flesh TTD, post-WB Prince, Jack White after Elephant, George Carlin's caustic/barely-comedic last HBO special after 9/11, Red Hook Brooklyn Spike, Public Enemy with a 10-piece-band to play their R&RHOF Induction......you get the idea. None of the newer material really sticks to the ribs.
And oddly enough the group once considered 'conscious' by proxy in ‘98/’99 now lyrically seems to try to make big sweeping societal statements but neglect to do the individual soul-bearing work required.
This new album is hopefully the nadir of albums made in this style, the sonic/thematic mood is like some sort of dystopian Gorillaz record where the rap verses are ancillary, minor keys are unrelenting, a few string breaks are interjected, the tempos rarely change and the hooks feel like elongated funeral dirges that you instantly forget when they mercifully end.
After their umpteenth 'challenging' indie-rock/art-hop album in a row, the challenge The Legendary seem least up for taking on is attempting to make entertaining music with any degree of rap energy or element of rock danger.
Hate to be the 'you grandiose m*therf#ck@s don't play the shit that they like' Shadow Henderson/Wesley Snipes type but such is life and after two decades of countless shows, embarrassing numbers of time logged on OKP’s message boards since they became available in ’99 and double-digit automatic album purchases, guess I feel like I've earned the right to gripe.
Love, Peace & Gourmet Food-Truck Chicken Grease,