Student Life Archives (2001-2008)

Album Reviews

Bernell Dorrough

N.E.R.D.
Fly or Die
Virgin Records
Grade: B-
Final Word: N.E.R.D. hits a sophomore slump

From the opening stomp funk beat of its opening track, followed quickly by the crooned announcement “She’s bad-bad-badass!” it is apparent what sort of record N.E.R.D.’s “Fly or Die” is going to be. The second effort from the side project of the super-successful and ultra-ubiquitous production duo the Neptunes (Pharrell Wilson and Chad Hugo) is a dance party album, plain and simple. While this is all fine and dandy, the potential the group showed on their debut, “In Search of . . .” to be more than just another shake your ass group is not realized on this followup.

The Neptunes, hitmakers behind Britney Spears, Nelly, and countless others, appear to love rock just as much as pop and hip-hop. That is what separates N.E.R.D. from the countless projects that they produce-the most prominent instrument here is the sloppy, sometimes distorted guitar of Chad Hugo. On this album, instead of using the backing band Spymob, they play all of the instruments themselves, which adds a new dimension to their sound-they’re all beginners at their instruments and it adds a certain charm to the music. But on “In Search of . . .” everything was so tightly constructed and perfect that it makes this album sound a bit amateurish.

This album isn’t all a step backwards, though. Some of the songs are pretty fantastic-the first single, “She Likes to Move,” has a fun, Chili Peppers-esque vibe; the title track has a pogo-up-and-down feel; and the way “Breakout” speeds up and slows down is reminiscent of good ’60s R&B. These songs don’t make up for the disappointment that the album doesn’t live up to their debut or a lot of the pop singles that the Neptunes have produced. On “In Search of . . .” N.E.R.D. sounded like a band-on “Fly or Die” it sounds like the side project they’ve become.

New Bomb Turks
Switchblade Tongues, Butterknife Brains
Gearhead Records
Grade: A-
Final Word: Their sound may not be new, but it is the Bomb

The New Bomb Turks are one of the most prolific and explosive of the garage rock revival bands. Having begun terrorizing pretentious, overblown indie bands a decade before the White Stripes and light years before the Von Bondies, the New Bomb Turks, over a series of consistent albums and tossed off singles-not to mention a combative, confrontational live show-are simply the best straightforward rock band in America right now, and have been for some time. “Switchblade Tongues, Butterknife Brains” is a collection of various B-sides and 7-inch singles in one easy to carry CD package, and sums up what is the Bomb about these Turks.

On all of their albums, as well as this collection, the Turks shake things up with high-speed punk bashes, swaggering Stones-y rockers and the occasional ballad or keyboard instrumental. A lot of bands are good at one or the other, fast or slow, but the Turks can handle any task, mostly because of the multiple talents of guitarist Jim Weber and lead singer Eric Davidson. Weber is equally at home building mountains of noise with three chords and distortion or knocking out some Keith Richards rhythm twang. Davidson sounds enough like Mick Jagger to make the comparison but has a personality of his own, a personality that comes across in his super-literate, super-smartass lyrics (yeah, those English degrees really do rock!).

The only drawback to this disc is its recording quality. The Turks have, in the past, avoided the lo-fi nonsense that most garage revivalists take on as an aesthetic. Here, they fall prey to it themselves, leaving some of the songs sounding either too muddy or too spare. But that’s a minor complaint-rock and roll is here to stay, and its name is the New Bomb Turks.

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