Review Summary: ...And Another Thing can face up to any of 2007’s hip hop releases and come out smiling.
Following up a truly great hip hop album is a major challenge- ask Wu-Tang, Common, Kanye or any number of A-list rappers- but Messiah J & the Expert’s second-and-a-half release, …And Another Thing
, must surely be counted among the albums which have overcome such a daunting prospect. The ten-track mini-album, released just four months after its predecessor Now This I Have To Hear
, is drawn in equal quantities from b-sides- dating from their days as a three-piece entitled Creative Controle to their most recent hit ‘Something Outta Nothing’- and freshly-recorded material: songs that didn’t quite fit on the previous album, or songs that had yet to be recorded. The result is a surprisingly strong mixture of tracks, both in the jazzy, alternative rap style of Now This I Have To Hear
and newer, but no less accomplished, territory like classical and electronic ambience.
The album kicks off with single ‘Superfamous Supertune,’ a thrilling, string-laden muse about one-hit wonders that are reluctant to play their one big hit, as MJ semi-facetiously notes, “that was a lovely piece of music, but they’ve heard it now / How’s about you play the song they really care about?”
. It’s the one that goes “na na na na nah-nah nahh nahh,” apparently… ‘Accidental Genius’ explores a similar theme, the story of the “inadvertent genius, the product of an audience obsessed with deeply-meaning shit”
to the backing of a loungey piano motif and speedy acoustic guitar picking. Closer ‘Not What I Planned’ marries triumphant funk horns and guitars with the hard-luck story of a gathering with the in-laws gone horribly wrong, where “every comment goes down like a child-abuse joke.”
The duo’s off-beat, occasionally surreal, sense of humour is on show throughout the disc, even when they approach styles a little different from what fans might be used to. Sing-along highlight ‘Bone Collector’ exudes a horror punk ambience despite its distinct lack of punk; sampling the age-old spiritual ‘Dem Bones,’ it introduces light trumpets and jazzy guitar to the warm female vocals that announce the arrival of the ‘Bone Collector’ “on the prowl.”
‘One Bedroom Apartment’ makes use of a scratchy, yet gorgeous, sample of the classic ‘Stormy Weather’ to underpin the revisionist versions of Batman and Superman, in which the Caped Crusader turn to the demon drink to “kill his own bad guys”
and Clark and Lois’ differences have gotten the better of them. Superheroes indeed.
Perhaps most surprising is instrumental track ‘Ever Forwards, Never Back.’ Making use of what sounds like a voiceover from a 1950s meditation tape, the piano-led tracks exudes some of the futuristic ambience often associated with Dan the Automator, with the shuffling break-beat the only obvious link to conventional hip hop. It’s a standout track in more than just quality, however; …And Another Thing
makes small, often subtle additions to the MJEX armoury, but never attempts to reinvent their already unique and distinctive sound. As an album, …And Another Thing
falls short of its near-flawless predecessor, but as a standalone it can easily face up to any of 2007’s hip hop releases and come out smiling.