Streaming Consciously: Interpoliticking With Banks & Steelz
What if I told you that the lead singer of veteran indie-rock outfit Interpol and the leader of hip-hop’s mighty Wu-Tang Clan had joined forces to form a duo and released an album that attempted to mesh their two distinctly disparate styles? Is that something you’d be interested in? Yeah, didn't think so. *Yoda Voice* Form Like Voltron, Does Not.
Banks & Steelz may be the most well-intended, ill-advised musical pairing since the aborted 1991 Public Enemy/Sisters of Mercy tour or Q-Tip & Korn. This is Mountain-Climber-A&R-Who-Plays-Electric-Guitar Music. Suit & Tie Rap. And while the results aren’t exactly cleaner than a bar of soap, they are also pretty far from the meaning of dope. This album sounds like The RZA’s collabo with Mars Volta on the second Handsome Boy Modeling School album, if that song was stretched out to the length of three replays of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”.
Maybe the committee of Pitchfork Media critics who named Interpol’s debut the top album of 2002 will feel this album. I hope some audience I'm not connected with will anyway. Still even with them, I’m not sure this will click. Interpol as a band has never really connected with yours truly in any meaningful way, so I'm probably not the one to say. On More Than Words, Banks & Steelz debut or a one-off project, singer seems quite disconnected from whatever The RZA is attempting to do in the bars he spits here. Bars that aren’t served by the urgent tempo they’re delivered in over the course of this album. All the sped-up, syllable-cramming gets a chance to rest whenever we hear Paul Banks deliver some imperceptibly cool or straight-up half-hearted crooning across their shared musical landscape. A shared musical landscape which the more cynical types might say occurred due to the two principal's shared management. We certainly won't say that blindly, although we could totally envision some LA or NYC industry bean-counters hoping they had the next Run The Jewels or Gnarls Barkley when this collaboration was first mentioned a few years ago.
The lead single “Love and War” off this album which apparently has already released five singles despite being released a week ago, features one of the sharpest swordsman in the Clan, Ghostface Killah. Unfortunately, most die-hard Wu fans will be left longing for the days of more visceral solo songs of love and war by Bobby or Ghost, like “Domestic Violence” off Bobby Digital in Stereo or “Wildflower” off Ironman.
Method Man drops by to mail in a verse on the album’s swan song much like he, Rae & Ghost all did on the disappointing three-headed toss-off Wu-Massacre. However, his poetry-in-motion style of rhythmic dexterity is able to slide comfortably into the confines of this track. Doing so in a fashion RZA’s typically charming polysyllabic speech-impeded flow has trouble doing here. Meth is, after all, a man who managed to sound at home on tracks by Ashanti & Limp Bizkit.
We were initially scared to listen to this album, while secretly hoping our fears would be assuaged. Sadly, they were instead confirmed. In a recent interview with Fuse TV done in preparation for Banks & Steelz set in Philadelphia at the Made In America festival, The RZA proclaimed “"We got a good dynamic of wild energy and contained energy. I like to compare me and Paul to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. They are both good by themselves, but put ‘em together, you got a better sandwich”.
The synergy between these two is not exactly the type of lunchable this listener was hoping to snack on and chew. So while we applaud the efforts on both Paul Banks and Robert Diggs’ part to think bigger and push boundaries while perpetually searching for new frontiers of their creativity…More Than Words, sad to say, isn’t much more than some PB&J.
Wudder Weight: as Phife Dawg once said…you get an “E” for Effort & “T” for Nice Try