If the genre "post-punk laptop rap" was never real before, MC Lars is sure coining it as his own now. MC Lars is a 25 year old rapper who was influenced in his teen years by both rock and rap. He is a member of the "iGeneration", another phrase he created to group a society dependent on the Internet, sidekicks and profile websites. His lyrics are both smart and funny, ranging from topics such as writing songs ("21 Concepts") to Moby Dick ("Ahab") right down to Internet piracy ("Download This Song"). The idea that this white guy is rapping might seem slightly rubbish on paper, but he manages to pull it off so well. I mean, this is a guy who, along with independent label Nettwerk Records, defended a 15-year-old girl and her family in court for downloading songs after she emailed them. I hosted this album on my album reviews blog, and he found it after a link on another website. He kindly asked me to take it down until the album was officially released, something I was amazed by. This guy treats his fans like real people, and understands the shift the music industry is taking. All he's doing is embracing that, and this album is a huge example. It leaked about a month before it was scheduled to be released, so his label put the song for sale on iTunes in a matter of days, gaining a credible amount of downloads too.
"21 Concepts" is a great example. Using a sample from Tetris and the chorus structure from Jay-z's "99 Problems", what's left is a fun song which pokes fun at a lot of subjects of music today like politics, the 90's and women. The lyrics aren't his smartest, but they match the feel of the song without sounding to stupid. "I've got 21 concepts but a hit ain't one, if you're having lyric problems I feel bad for you son". The ending is just amazing though, losing track after track until just the MIDI from Tetris is left. Another good track is "iGeneration", obviously taken from his own phrase. The beat is very infectious and sounds very 'digital', again fitting well with the lyrics. The Piebald sample only makes the song greater for music geeks who love that kinda thing. The lyrics again are fairly different from most rap songs, but doesn't sound too dumb nor smart. "The choice made, baby. Hey we'd take it back, logged in dropped out, MTV took track/They sold it back to us and claimed no correlation. The iMac, iPod, iGeneration."
The album in all is very wide in terms of the music and subjects of lyrics. The single, "Hot Topic Is NOT Punk Rock" is a straight-up fast-paced punk rock song which screams that Spongebob wristbands and Misfits candle tins are not punk rock. I don't live in America, but I'm guessing most of the things in this song are not real. But still, it's one of the best songs on the album because of it's irregularity compared to the rest of the rap-based songs. "Ahab" might be one of the smartest and catchiest songs on the album, a 4 minute poppy rap song about the capture of Moby Dick which features a sample of Supergrass' "Moving". No, I am not kidding. It's pretty entertaining, but it also reminds me of his song "Mr Raven", a similar song about the old tale of The Raven. It's hard not to find the line "Oh no, oh no, the ship's gotta hole, plug it out, plug it out!" hilarious, but it's a funny song. MC Lars embraces that, and provides the jokes as well as the story. Probably the most interesting song on the album is "Signing Emo", a song about the rise and fall of band Hearts That Hate that clearly rips on the fashion of 'screamo'. The chorus is just inescapable, it's just perfect. Combining a catchy beat during the verses with the Hearts That Hate song as a chorus is brilliant in my opinion, and it's hard to find the lyrics "Cry tonight. My hands around your hands. I won't let you die tonight." funny. It's a geeks paradise as well "They auto-tune Blake, but he can't tell.He says, 'I've got perfect pitch, damn I sing well.'/ProTools, Logic, cut, copy, paste, quantized solos and quantized bass." (Side note: Bowling For Soup have been known to play the full Hearts That Hate song "Cry Tonight" at shows. This isn't really relevant, I just think it's kinda funny)
Of course, the album has it's flaws. Quite a lot really. There's a fair amount of filler which just sounds ridiculous when you aren't paying attention. Tales of relationships with female rappers, a song parodying "generic crunk rap" in the the process becoming pretty much unlistenable, a track about time machines and bad roommates. It all sounds quite funny, but the problem is this album doesn't have enough good lyrics. I know it's all supposed to be quite funny, but he's a great lyricist and I think it's a waste on songs like these. But if you can look past that and enjoy the joke songs for what they are, the whole album is actually quite enjoyable to listen to. I've listened to it a lot purely for the catchier songs I love, and find myself not skipping the other songs as much. It's an improvement I guess.
When you consider this album was completely made on his laptop (Apart from guest musicians and several parts required to be recorded in a studio), he's done well for himself. References to authors, books and bands with samples and lyrics, and more witty lyrics from himself, it's a certain step in the right direction for the rising musician. Be it the somewhat revolutionary "Download This Song", the impressive knowledge of "Ahab" or the hilarious story of the fictional band from "Signing Emo", there is something for nearly everyone. It's smart and surprising, and delivers hit after hit. So if you consider yourself quite open-minded when it comes to pop-punk and hip-hop, I'd suggest this CD. It's great fun, with some interesting beats and lyrics. This is most certainly not traditional hip-hopmeets geek rapping (If there is such a thing). MC Lars lacks a lot of structure and originality in the way he constructs songs, but the topics and words used in them quickly make up for that, and gives him a certain charm. The album is supposed to make you smile, and it certainly did so with me.
"Download This Song"
[url]http://www.myspace.com/mclars[/url] (Songs from the review: "Hot Topic Is NOT Punk Rock", "Download This Song", "Signing Emo", "iGeneration")