Review Summary: Guns and lazers and zombies and Jamaica and dance and dance and dance and dance.
World, meet Major Lazer. Major Lazer, meet world.
Consider it an honor – after all, this is the Jamaican commando who lost his arm in the secret Zombie War of 1984, only to have the US military rescue him and replace his phantom limb with experimental lazers. Like I said: an honor. Or absurd bullshit
. Y’know, whatever. But c’mon, let’s face it, when Diplo and Switch, two of the dance scene’s most revered tastemakers put together a new mix tape inspired by Jamaican dancehall, they could plaster it with stories of man eating pancakes and still have the scene sit up, throw on a Saturday night outfit and dance
like the world was ending. Your move, indie kid.
Not that either producer have been anything but hip of course – yet, unlike most other pop-fad DJs (ahm, Steve Aoki), on the one hand, Diplo has always managed to stay ahead of the cool curve, straddling an ever evolving line between pop infused beats and his constant promotion of the exotically obscure, skipping with ease between Brazilian bailie funk, Angolan kuduro and now, Jamaican groove. On the other, Sway, the second half of the Major Lazer project, perfectly compliments the album’s wicked mood of grinding funk, with his vast experience of having remixed almost every song on the planet allowing him to place his own stamp on the it’s self described sound of “digital reggae and dancehall from Mars in the future”. Whereas those more familiar with Diplo’s earlier dabbling with genre hopping, mash up experiences might expect to find more of the same here, Guns Don’t Kill
dives deep into dancehall territory and refuses to look back, saturated as it is with the heavy grooves and delicious rhythms of Jamaica’s finest. Rainfalls of steel drums and funky reggae beats roll their way along a tracklist which wavers in between aggressive displays of dance floor madness and laid back, Ganja inspired frolics.
And of course, what better way than to announce their presence in polished sheen, with opener “Hold The Line” kicking off with a slow swagger of wild west guitar twang – a vision: the man with no name entering the dusty town on horseback – before exploding into a shattered rendition of Dick Dale’s surf rock classic “Misirlou” as slick beats weave their way around the distinctive vocal stylings of Santogold and Mr. Lexx’s thickly accented rhymes. With the cornerstone in place there’s satisfaction for everyone here, as tracks like “When You Hear The Bassline” and “Anything Goes” lay down their one-two punch of dance floor romp, while those more inclined to Marley’s sunset slow burners (and face it, you couldn’t name another Jamaican artist anyway) can glean their own pleasure from the wonderfully chilled moments of “Can’t Stop Now” and “Cash Flow”. As for those who can’t think Jamaica without thinking green, “Mary Jane” provides the perfect refuge as Mr. Evil and Mapei croon: “Hello, Mary Jane, I can’t get you off my brain, take me higher than a crane”
to the tune of marching drums and tuba bursts.
Yet even if substance breaths through the lyrics of Guns Don’t Kill
, the music itself lacks in spots just that – Guns is a fun album, made for fun people, but that doesn’t mean that instants of awkwardness don’t result: “Keep It Going Louder”, for one, lends an air of contemporary Rn’B flavor as Nina Sky and Ricky Blaze pull off a (subpar) Rihanna and Akon inspired pairing complete with a usual lyrical call of ‘Girl I wanna party with you
’ sung over an autotune in overdrive. Speaking of which, I suppose it was only a matter of time before someone decided to use the infamous production technique to the sound of a baby crying and turn it into an album track (“Baby”). And not even Diplo and Sway’s attempts to layer closer “Jump Up” with a myriad of blips and bloops save it from its own rather generic interior. But dammit, this is an album about guns and lazers and zombies and dance and dance and dance and dance and music that will make you as wild and crazy and mad as it all sounds. Just look at that frikkin album art. Take the cue son.