Another entry regarding 2014. Once again will worm Wu-Tang Clan into that year-end list. Should be getting back to 2015 releases soon.
GHOSTFACE KILLAH – 36 Seasons (Tommy Boy Entertainment): I don’t mind GK’s retro-soul obsession, but if his bloated parables are going to get even more ridiculous than they already are, I’ll insist that he throws in a hook for flavor. Backed by Blaxploitation band The Revelations, this one’s about Ghostface’s alter ego Starks facing off against a high-tenored crooked cop (guest AZ). Like 2013’s 12 Reasons to Die, there’s really nothing wrong with the album: good flow, great rhymes, solid performances all around. But I miss the Ghostface of Fishscale, whose fictional personas weren’t three or four times removed from the real one. I mean, how many alter egos does your alter ego need? B PLUS (*)
WU-TANG CLAN – A Better Tomorrow (Warner Bros.): Because virtually all of Wu is pushing mid-40s, and because their boom-bap, vintage-sampling style and old skool delivery are still ever-present, many in the rock crit community have deemed the Clan finally is something to fuck with, awarding this reunion in aggregate a paltry 60. Reasons cited? RZA’s “flawed musical execution” (Boston Globe), a style that’s “completely out of joint” (A.V. Club), and a collective “cloying sentimentality” (Pitchfork), only I think that RZA’s mid-tempo production and sample selection is spot on considering the age of the crewmembers, their noncontemporaneous panache purposefully not keeping in line with current hip-hop trends (like they give a shit about that), and their sentimentality a product of being family men rather than posers and, God forbid, having an optimistic outlook opposite the sly cynicism exhibited by critics’ cool favorites. Yes, not everything is a surefire hit (“Miracles” or “Preacher Man,” though I can more than stomach them), and I’ll bet RZA went through great pains to get a reluctant Wu to team up, but this idea that A Better Tomorrow is nothing but a cringefest refuses to acknowledge the fun factor flat out; rarely do I find 67 minutes’ worth of hip-hop material I’m willing to induce in one sitting, and so I like the horns and drumline, I like the lazy cultural references and slant rhymes, and I like that each of the nine shaolin enthusiasts has their own eccentricities regarding lyric material. Most of all, I like how decidedly not in my face it is, a tossed off stance only paunchy old men can issue as they chuckle at their younger contemporaries, remembering that they were once lively and pissed off. Long live Wu. A MINUS