Hilltop Hoods
State of the Art


4.3
superb

Review

by Jom STAFF
July 18th, 2009 | 49 replies | 13,207 views


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Adelaide-based trio returns with a markedly-improved effort all-around, with biting social commentary and heaping piles of black humor.

As it turns into nervous energy, anticipation can really screw with you. From simple pleasures (ordering my favorite meal at my favorite restaurant) to more life-altering experiences (preparing for my upcoming wedding day), a person can clearly run the gamut of emotions depending on his/her circumstances. Obviously, you can expect the average dude to be more reserved in the former situation than the latter, but I still get antsy whenever highly-valued artists get ready to release their newest records. I don't get discombobulated to the point where I'd forget my vows or forget to Mapquest directions to a roadtrip destination I'd been planning for months, but such giddiness does give me something to look forward to once the big day arrives.

Adelaide-based Hilltop Hoods, comprised of emcees Suffa, Pressure, and DJ Debris - reign supreme Down Under, but have been criminally ignored anywhere outside Oceania. There are all sorts of criticisms levied against the trio; most notably, that the Hoods have stellar beats but subpar emceeing that never really shows signs of improvement between records. Between the two, Pressure catches a lot more flak than Suffa, but neither is immune to detraction. There's also the fact that, despite 2006's The Hard Road being "Re-Strung" with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, it took over three years to release something new (and a similar case can be made between The Hard Road and 2003's The Calling), which could feasibly confirm critics' accusations that the group is lazy and incapable of progressive ideas or creating something fresh and innovative altogether.

This is anything but the case with State of the Art, an invigorating, refreshing listen with enormous playback value and marked improvement across the board. Hilltop Hoods have always been renowned for their use of samples and live instrumentation, and DJ Debris' picks all throughout the trio's career (from the unusual "Pornosonic Laying Pipe" featured in The Hard Road's "Clown Prince" to "Hot Line Conversation" by Giant Crab being featured in "The Light You Burned") are flawlessly implemented and astutely executed. The bright piano in the title track, the blaring horns (such as in "Super Official"), an emphasis on drumkit-driven percussion to complement the flow and drive between the dual vocals, and the expert sampling are all fantastic. The Hoods even sample themselves (listen for "What a Great Night" in the 3:37 black comedy that is "Chris Farley"), in an almost tongue-in-cheek sort of fashion. Throughout the record, a curious sense of dark humor percolates between each track, and on a record where each track seamlessly segues between the other, it's almost fitting.

Both Suffa and Pressure have idiosyncrasies in their vernacular and dialect to differentiate between the two emcees, and while Suffa again delivers a more memorable performance on State of the Art, Pressure is no slouch. His verses on album opener "The Return," album highlight "Chase That Feeling" ("Sometimes I feel we strive for a life of apathy / Callous deeds of the mindless acts of greed . . . / I take flight in the night from lack of sleep / 'Cause peace of mind's the only time that I'm free"), "Super Official" (where he urges the listener to "Write rhymes with your heart and do your business with your head"), and his verse with Pharoahe Monch in "Classic Example" are some of his best offerings in his career. If there's a cut that highlights his talents even more, look no further than "Last Confession," where he writes to his son:

This will be my last confession
This industry can leave harsh impressions
I have little faith - forgive me for my past discretions
But we live and learn that history and [the] past are lessons
I'm a logical man given to science
Forgive me, I know religion inspires
But too many have government and political ties
And use state of the art warfare to bridge their divides
Assertion, aggressions, murder, then vengeance
We treat peace like it's a term of acceptance
Exception: we're not accepting if we're searching for penance
So these words are for my son so he can learn from my lessons
My biggest fear's to die not knowing you well
And I ain't afraid to die - I'm afraid of going to Hell

Similarly, Suffa's verses are typically excellent, but as is customary with Hoods solo cuts, Suffa's "Fifty in Five" is sublime and quite easily one of the best cuts heard this year. In one of the group's most scathing social commentaries to date, Suffa single-handedly runs down Australian politicians by name ("Whitlam, Keatine, Hawke had a promise of no children in poverty - wish that could have been honest") or implies their thirst for power (referring to Aussie puppets Abbot and Costello as "right-wing overlords" who threw their promises and children "overboard") is more important than establishing policy for their countrymen. What's most memorable about the cut is how Suffa encapsulates fifty years (I can't say for certain he does it in fifty measures) into a little over five minutes so seamlessly: from wars to natural disasters to advancements in science to assassinations, Suffa covers it all with such tenacity and vigor that it seems like an almost natural listen when the soft piano kicks in and he turns his introspection outward: "'Cause when we look back at what we have done, can you believe what we have become?"

While State of the Art's black humor and almost-random pop culture references are all a collective hit-or-miss, its social commentary is almost always on-point and the instrumentation and delivery is stunning. There is a definite amount of "fun" on the record - take for instance the zombies-take-over-Adelaide "Parade of the Dead" and the off-kilter humor found in "Chris Farley" ("I wanna die in Memphis like Elvis, senseless on the toilet pissing on my own pelvis, helpless, choking on vodka and shellfish") - but the more sinister, scathing numbers are what make the record such a solid listen. As expected, DJ Debris is a workaholic, sampling nearly anything and everything (including himself), and the marked improvement heard in both Suffa and Pressure should silence their naysayers for now. That said, hopefully they don't keep us waiting until 2012.

A

Jom recommends:


Fifty in Five
Chase That Feeling
Chris Farley
She's So Ugly
Still Standing



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user ratings (87)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
Michael Philp (4.5)
A stronger focus on depth and substance has lead the Hilltop Hoods to their best record to date....

CrackTheSkye (3.5)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Jim
July 18th 2009



5110 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

sick review

i wore off the hoods but this has really persuaded me to get this

Douglas
July 18th 2009



8984 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Awesome review. Got the album a while back and havent really given it a good listen. Shall do now.

Piglet
July 18th 2009



4644 Comments


hmmm... Not a fan of Hilltop Hoods though

rasputin
July 18th 2009



14504 Comments


yeah i can't stand these guys

AtavanHalen
July 18th 2009



17927 Comments


Chase That Feeling makes me so happy; I really do love it.

DrReg
July 19th 2009



127 Comments


Not a huge fan of rap in general, but being from Aus you cant help but hear this a lot on the radio, and I have to say what I've heard from this cd is quite excellent.

Spare
July 19th 2009



5223 Comments


I liked Chase That Feeling until my brother played it at least 100 times every single day in the past week. Also,

album highlight "Chase This Light"
I assume this is wrong. Awesome review though cuz Dom lol

AtavanHalen
July 19th 2009



17927 Comments


His name is Dom now

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
July 19th 2009



20825 Comments


I was waiting for Sobhi to review this, but I'll never say "no" to a review from Dom.

I have yet to hear this album but this review definitely builds my anticipation.

Dom, since you are clearly not adverse to listening to non-U.S hip-hop, can I recommend you give Phrase's "Clockwork" some of your time. Another great release from down under in 2009.

Piglet
July 19th 2009



4644 Comments


hasn't he always been Jom? iunno

Vooligan
July 19th 2009



3541 Comments


Haven't heard this yet but they songs they played when i saw them live a month or so ago were pretty good.
Best Aussie hip hop release i reckon is Horrorshow's 'The Grey Space' tis fan-farken-tastic.

Jom
Staff Reviewer
July 19th 2009



2595 Comments


I assume this is wrong.


Ha, whoops! Random Jimmy Eat World reference. Good eye, thanks!

LisbonGirls
July 19th 2009



832 Comments


Damn your reviews are good. But like so many others I can't stand these guys.

Captain North
July 20th 2009



6743 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Just got it, thanks to this review. The last three songs are the strongest on the album, with Fifty in Five being easily the best.

PuddlesPuddles
July 20th 2009



4701 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I actually like these guys a lot

Review was awesome Jom

Jom
Staff Reviewer
July 21st 2009



2595 Comments


I think they needed to make a few changes after The Hard Road, and some of them have been really good, but overall I think it suffers from the same inconsistency.

Would you mind elaborating? It makes me feel like I missed out on something important in the review... thanks.

Streetvulture
July 21st 2009



361 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

most incredible rapping since edible panties

Great review, I really enjoyed this album, particularly 'Chris Farley' and 'Chase that Feeling'

Captain North
July 21st 2009



6743 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Pressure's nasally vocals are kinda annoying though.

Streetvulture
July 21st 2009



361 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yeah he's the weaker member of the group i'd say

Jom
Staff Reviewer
July 21st 2009



2595 Comments


Oh, right on, much appreciated. I liked the first four songs, "What a Great Night," and "City of Light" from THR, and everything else was just kinda "Well..."

The best songs here have a little more staying power than the best songs from THR, although the "little more" is honestly negligible because the difference in listenability is so slim.



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