Messiah J & The Expert
From The Word Go


4.5
superb

Review

by Dr Dave De Sylvia STAFF
October 17th, 2008 | 27 replies | 9,324 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: From The Word Go is every bit the record it threatened to be: a challenging but accessible rap triumph.

Proverb says it’s better to build a solid foundation first and make aesthetic changes later, and that’s exactly what Dublin hip hop duo Messiah J & The Expert achieved with Now This I Have To Hear, their second record, in 2006. Now This I Have To Hear was a great record in its own right; not only did it showcase a wide range of musical influences from east coast rap to alt. rock and funky soul, the album set the group apart as a unique commodity in arguably the fastest-moving genre in music, their sombre tones and genre-bending aesthetic becoming instantly identifiable to all but the most detached listener. Yet Now This I Have To Hear was always meant to be the basic building blocks of the MJEX sound, and it’s with From The Word Go that the group have emerged as a genuinely world-class act, making subtle additions and improvements upon their earlier style while maintaining its essential character. Evolution, not revolution, is the order of the day, and rarely has science sounded so interesting.

From the word go, literally, the album exudes a more self-confident tone than its predecessor. Tempo-wise, it’s much more upbeat and aggressive, from the furious four-to-the-floor beat of ‘Jean Is Planning An Escape’ to the tongue-twisting rhymes of ‘Panic Station’ and vitriolic opener ‘Year Of The Genie.’ ‘Jean Is Planning An Escape’ is the heaviest track on the record in more ways than one; thumping bass and pulsating synth melody in tow, Messiah J explores the delicate issue of domestic abuse with compassion and intelligence, noting that “all her friends say ‘go, Jean, go,’” but in the end only she can choose to end the cycle of abuse: ”Jean is coming to her own conclusion.” ‘Tomorrow Is Too Late’ provides the clearest link to Now This I Have To Hear- in fact, the gloomy, acoustic track could very well be an outtake from that album- a straightforward narrative of a nervy encounter with a homeless man that turns into a thought-provoking call to activism and awareness.

Long-term collaborators Leda Egri (she of ‘Something Outta Nothing’ fame) and Joanne Daly (who lent sultry vocals to ‘Bone Collector’) are on hand to help give birth to two of the album’s two clear highlights: ‘Turn The Magic On’ and ‘Amnesia Comes Easily.’ ‘‘Turn The Magic’ is unconsciously very reminiscent of the Cure, matching a classic clipped-funk guitar sequence in the style of the Meters with breezy synthesised strings and emphatic trumpets. Lyrically, it ties together the album’s dominant themes, friendship and commitment, with the lines: “we turn the magic on / though we never really get together, I remember when we get together.” Another highlight, ‘Geography,’ which features Kieran and Ro of indie rockers Delorentos on lead chorus vocals, takes on the long distance angle with less optimism, noting: ”we can't compete with borders, mountains and dangerous waters, oceans and shores / we can't afford long-haulers, spatial restraining orders, long distance calls, [Geography is] greater than anything you feel.”

Evidence of the pair’s improved telekinetic connection is evident on tracks like ‘Panic Station,’ where the early feeling is all ‘60s psychedelia with fluttering synths and furious chord stabs, but soon it reverts to a fiercely melodic two-tone ska riff. ‘Looking For A Long Term Thing’ is no less ambitious in its effort to blend the unblendable, delicately interweaving passages of ‘Born Slippy’-style trance keyboards with a crunchy psychedelic proto-metal bassline, while ‘Geography’ finds the middle ground between Bond theme and drum n’ bass club banger by way of a scrambled string section reminiscent of Britney Spears’ evergreen classic ‘Toxic.’

Whereas in the past Messiah J has been most comfortable as the dispassionate storyteller, here he writes primarily in the first-person, and his lyrics cut that bit deeper as a result. On ‘Looking For A Long Term Thing,’ he delivers a stinging rebuke to people who can’t or won’t keep their promises, ”don’t make a five-year plan if you’re going to do two / Don’t give your wife your hand if you’re going to screw whoever you like.” On ‘Year Of The Genie,’ he vents his frustration at the posturing of that universal evil- the politician- enquiring, ”is it a scam folks? A damn hoax? We're waiting / Because they seem to be aping the ones they think need replacing.” Similarly, lead single ‘Megaphone Man’ explores the futility of the political system from the other side, inventing the title’s character to say all the things he wishes he had the courage or the knowledge, or both, to say out loud and proud. All in all, Messiah J has trimmed the fat from his songwriting; he writes less, and repeats himself more, but now each line is as indispensible as the last- surely the mark of a special one, no?

From The Word Go is every bit the record it threatened to be: challenging yet accessible; diverse yet coherent; serious yet playful; pop but not pop. More than that, it’s as thoughtful and intricate an album as has been released in 2008 and one that is bound to win the band many admirers at home and abroad, upon its UK release in January.



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user ratings (14)
Chart.
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
plane
Staff Reviewer
October 17th 2008



6073 Comments


I didn't like the tracks streaming, which is weird. I figured I'd like them a lot more.

kingsoby1
Emeritus
October 17th 2008



4830 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

You should have given this a 3.5... now I have impossible expectations.

Digging: Nmesh - Dream Sequins

jrowa001
October 17th 2008



8749 Comments


cant wait to get my hands on this

dohnerkabap
October 17th 2008



2 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Cant wait to see them play tomorrow night in Andrews Lane! Yay!

Bleak123
October 17th 2008



1902 Comments


can't wait to hear the album personally

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
October 17th 2008



15693 Comments


i see a surprising album rating from sputnikmusic staff writer nick greerThis Message Edited On 10.17.08

Digging: Nmesh - Dream Sequins [AMDISCS]

Bleak123
October 17th 2008



1902 Comments


LOL!

never one to let trends/hype go to his headThis Message Edited On 10.17.08

DFelon204409
Emeritus
October 17th 2008



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Well, I listened to the album a few times and this is what I think. That's that.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
October 17th 2008



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

No I listened to it 3-4.

EDIT: I see what you did. ipod non-scrobbles dude. Sorry.This Message Edited On 10.17.08

brandtweathers
October 17th 2008



2009 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

holy avatar, spat. that's squint-worthy

DFelon204409
Emeritus
October 17th 2008



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

The stakes were just so high. I had to lie to save face for Messiah J and the Expert. Oh man I'm in too deep.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
October 17th 2008



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Well I didn't want to talk shit and just hate, because that's essentially my opinion. It's one of the worst albums I've heard i years. It
sounds like Zebrahead trying to be left-field or something. The silver lining is that the quality of production is very high, except
the actual tones, instruments, melodies, harmonies, and rhythms they choose to assemble with that crystal clear production are
ridiculous. They sound like they're trying to be bouncy and upbeat. It pretty much sounds like The Black-Eyed Peas but maybe
worse.This Message Edited On 10.17.08

Bleak123
October 17th 2008



1902 Comments


Zebrahead are awful be grateful they haven't 'graced' your ears.This Message Edited On 10.17.08

DFelon204409
Emeritus
October 17th 2008



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

It sounds like on every song they're trying to ramp up the energy in some way. Sort of like the ostinato bassline under "Let's Get Retarded," MJ+E use "pump up" rhythms and ostinato patterns to give a revolving energy to a lot of their songs that just sound contrived. The "yeow" and "hiya" vocals on "Year of the Genie" just feel like artificial ways to keep the energy high. And those synth tones, ugh. Also, the beats are ridiculously stale.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
October 17th 2008



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

On their older albums they were rap-rock and the vocal rhythms and general cadence of the rap reminds me of Messiah J a lot.
It's super stunted and chopped up at times (e.g. the vocal reprise at the end of the chorus,"it's the year of the genie," from "The
Year of the Genie"). Also, he overenunciates a lot of words like "cliche" and the words that rhyme with it in the chorus. It just
sounds like he's trying to hard to dig into the groove.

I mean one person doesn't like this album. Whatever I guess, right? I still really appreciated the feature and all the solid content
you put together.

EDIT: re:youredit: I can dig it.This Message Edited On 10.17.08

JordanS
October 19th 2008



319 Comments


this shit is too much fun

kmagnum1x
October 19th 2008



260 Comments


Dfelon is an idiot, no matter how much you dislike the album it is not a 1

beans
October 20th 2008



2332 Comments


congrats on telling him his own opinion

kmagnum1x
October 20th 2008



260 Comments


rating this album as 1 puts it in the ranks of soulja boy and paris hilton

DFelon204409
Emeritus
October 20th 2008



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

How would you know if I think Soulja Boy and Paris Hilton a 1 if they aren't rated in my ratings section?



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