Review Summary: Canada's greatest rapper drops another gem.
Right off the bat, Situation
tricks you into thinking many things, most of which turn out to be false. It's the gloomy, pinao-led "1957" that does it - rather like "3030" (from Deltron 3030
), it sounds like the start of a concept album about the year in question. In fact, many reviews have sold this as a concept album; yet, this is the only song that fits that concept in any concrete sense, as Buck simply uses the idea as a licence to namedrop and reference anything and everyone that pops into his head. Within the first five tracks, you've got The Stooges, The Buzzcocks, Link Wray, Ed Gein, Thelonius Monk, and Sid Vicious, among many others. So you're now thinking that after brief flirtations with a mainstream hip-hop audience, a rock audience, and a bunch of people who seemed to think he was the new Tom Waits, Buck 65 has given up and explicitly courted the one audience he can most easily please - the music obsessives. Who else would listen to a whole album like this? Even LCD Soundsystem mostly confined it to two songs.
And yet, by "Spread 'Em", he's rapping about prison sex. It's good to have you back, Buck.
Those drawn into Buck 65's world either by the cult comedy hip-hop classic "The Centaur" or by the two sleeper hits that made Talkin' Honky Blues
his most popular record to date ("463" and "Wicked & Weird") will be delighted with Situation
, as will those who were just a little disappointed by 2005's muted, occasionally depressive Secret House Against The World
. Putting the inspiration behind these tracks aside, Situation
is a collection of fast-talking, slickly performed rap songs - essentially, by returning to a sound more in line with traditional hip-hop, he's playing to his strengths. The general idea of the '50s does weave in and out of the album - there's a song about Bettie Page, for instance - but don't mistake it for a concept. That might imply it interferes with his natural talent, creative freedom, and lyrical flair, and that's certainly not the case.
Unbelievably, this is Buck 65's tenth album, not including the album he recorded under the Stinkin' Rich moniker. These albums have come within ten years, which makes it even more remarkable that Buck still has enough creative juice within himself to make albums this fun, this inventive, and this impressive. In fact, this might just be his best album yet - it's at least on a par with Talkin' Honky Blues
, which is enough for many fans to earkmark it as a return to form. Lyrically he's on fire throughout, perfecting his gift for making random nonsense sound like meaningful verse and vice versa. His voice - as subtly smooth as it is obviously rough - sounds as good as ever. Musically, he's still coming up with music from disparate sources and turning it into some of the best hip-hop around when it comes to balancing forward-looking ideas with mass appeal. Observe the space-age ska rhythm guitar on "The Rebel", or the power-pop inspired lines on "Heatwave", or the beautiful flamenco backing given to "The Outskirts" (a distant cousin of Immortal Technique's "You Never Know"). All these songs are guitar-dominated - like much of Buck's stuff, the guitar work here is as accomplished as any you'll find in most rap, even if only for the fact that Buck does more to acknowledge the diversity of the instrument than most. EVen on the more downbeat songs here - "Mr. Nobody", particularly - there's a sense of humour that's more finely tuned than it was on Secret House
. It's consistently great stuff - this is among the best hip-hop albums of the year by my reckoning.
Che Guevara? Rock star? *** off.