Review Summary: Busdriver moves to Epitaph, becomes poppier, and drops one of the catchiest bombs of 2007. Quality hip-hop album.
The average attention span for a person is around 30 seconds. When you think about how long conversations, speeches, movies, or musical works last the last man listening should be crowned some sort of iron man yes? Well the 30 can be extended when the artist or speaker takes the right approach, it its interesting and hard to turn away from the attention spent on it can last much longer than a mere half a second. Enter Busdriver, who has been releasing full lengths since 2002 and is already up to his sixth one in late January of 2007. He is a busy man but has not been on the shelves since 2005's Fear of a Black Tangent
. Things have changed much since then, changing labels from hip hop home Mush Records to more rock oriented Epitaph. On which will probably be considered his most accessible piece full of potential singles (the first being "Less Yes's, More No's"
), Busdriver sets himself up with his wide range of influences (Public Enemy, They Might Be Giants, Radiohead) to make a work that is out there but is anchored back to Earth with quick flowing lyrics and awareness of keeping the tempo consistent.
Right from the get go we see the change in background and production as it is more clear sounding and improved, but the talent behind the mic remains. The first string of songs captures the audience’s attention; they don't know what’s coming so what would be better to throw out the hook than with a series of tunes that vary in tempo and design, but are united in introducing the piece. Take the overall beginner, “Casting Agents and Cowgirls” which immediately brings back memories of last year’s duo Gnarls Barkley; the chemistry presented by Busdriver and Boom-Bip (who coincidentally has recorded tracks at Dangermouses’ recording studio) does rival that of the Cee-Lo and Dangermouse. It’s a more fast going track, the high pitched beats make it easy to digest but the fast and heavy moving words comin’ from Busdriver provides the perfect yin to the background’s yang. Midway through the first few tracks comes “Less Yes’s, More No’s”, it’s moves slower than the previous track but still upholds the formula of light beats and a catchy chorus, one that repeats the title of the song with keyboard chords in the background. Formulistic maybe, but effective. With the appetizers away, it becomes time to bust out the heaviest and probably best song on here. “Kill Your Employer” has everything you need for a good ol' bounce along: heavy jungle-like style beats, paranoia, homicidal lyrics towards a member of authority, sick keyboards, and nearly 4 minutes of what sounds like heaven on Earth, except heaven is a rapper who doesn’t dig his boss.
From this point it seems that the work goes on cruise control, occasionally hitting stretches of songs that while traveling from point a to b we have found ourselves at point tree and everything for some reason is purple. Right then. The pop side of the music comes in to heavy shine in the beginning as the name of songs take a similar path ("secret skin", "sun shower"?). Each one leaves its mark in a different way and provides a nifty reference point to come back for more listening ever. This goes on until the completely out there "Go Slow" which is much too slow for the tastes of most.
Of course with all this mayhem there has to be some drawback which becomes more and more in the music as it goes along. This manifests in the closing two tracks, “Mr. Mistake” and Dream Catcher’s Mitt”. The first of these tunes slinks in like the rest of the piece, granted more simple backups and even Busdriver sounds sobering, at this slowed down pace it still takes an effort to get all the words in mind though. A consistent song this is until the midway through “oohh’s” which take up about a minute of everyone’s time. This gets us ready for the end of the song and that comes with “Dream Catcher’s Mitt” which plays with acoustic guitar (!) and a constant morphing vocal treatment. It’s the lightest song on here and thanks to the looping guitar mixing with his voice, also makes it the most awkward. A better ending could have been picked for such a work of quality, but it is pleasing to most ears and the words of him being “entirely self loathing” counter the tone of the music as it is designed to do. Piano joins in the solo guitar until the end and it is over.
RoadKillOvercoat is quite a ride. It begins smooth and turbulent but picks up some inconsistency and road blocks, only to come to a smooth landing along the way. The only thing that hinders this album is the time of its release. Most January/February albums tend to be set to rest in people's media players, never to be seen the light of plays. Hopefully not forgotten in the long run, Busdriver gives his best performance thus far in a work that is entertaining both lyrically and the beats may make fans of a certain 70's British progressive rock band smile. Still paying attention?