N*E*R*D are a hip-hop/rock band comprising of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo of The Neptunes and their friend Shae Haley. The Neptunes of course are the producing duo responsible for most of the successful hip-hop/ R'n'B acts in the charts in the last 5 or more years. With N*E*R*D the band, they went for a different type of music in order to differentiate their two 'groups'. In fact they recorded the original album for a 2001 release but rerecorded it with the funk-rock band Spymob in order to give the music a more of a soulful rock edge to it.
Lapdance and Rockstar were the albums two biggest and most famous singles, Provider was also released to more moderate success. Rockstar was also famously remixed to great effect by William Orbit soon after its release.
1. Lapdance- Pharrell claims this song is about politicians who will do anything for money like strippers, despite the fact that it lyrically at least sounds very much like most brainless bump'n'grind songs. Anywho its an awesome song and among the albums best. The thumping guitar bass line throughout the song is distinctive and doesnt tire and the guest female chorus of 'Oh Baby You Want Me' is pretty stellar. As far as party tunes go this is almost flawless- 4.5/5
2. Things Are Getting Better- A change of pace with this more chilled out soulful rock track. Its an uptempo song and whilst it has a similar vibe to the previous track its much more relaxed and as can be guessed from the title its got an opptimistic 'lifes getting better' kinda theme to it which is cool- 4/5
3. Brain- The same guitar effect is used from Lapdance, however it still sounds quite fresh and its got some refreshing lyrics too- 'Do I really even love, or do I really love your brain"' perhaps an ironic spin on the normal lyrics of these kind of songs. Anyway its another great tune with a fast beat which really makes you wanna move- 4.2/5
4. Provider- This is in my opinion the best track on the album. Its got a mellow feel to it with an acoustic providing most of the tune over a slow drum beat. Lyrically its superb about just trying to earn a living to provide for your girl and not becoming like all the other dropouts- 5/5
5. Turth Or Dare- The same or a very similar baseline from Lapdance reprises here but with the guest vocals of Kelis and some string arrangements. Its an ok song in a similar vien to the Lapdance and Brain in that it would sound out of place at a club. Personally while its obviously a good song it feels abit too similar to some of those previous tracks and for me is abit tiring- 3.2/5
6. Tape You- Verse wise this track is a little mediocre but when the chorus kicks in its got a cool, different vibe to the other tracks and has some nice hooks and a catchy synth, electronic part over the chorus. 3.8/4
7. Run To The Sun- Again this track is a little more chilled out and again has its own individual sound to it. Like track 2 its a kind of soulful track with another effortlessly catchy tune interspersed. Its nothing standout but its a good song that could like most of the songs here be the best track on many of their peers in the charts- 3.8/5
8. Baby Doll- This isnt one I listen to alot really but its not bad I guess. Its got another fast drum beat and an almost 70s vibe to it in the guitar riff running over the chorus and an exotic quality somewhat- 3/5
9. Am I High- Another one often skip actually, though its not bad really- the chorus with its beach boy style harmony is decent enough. It features Mase and again does have quite a catchy tune in a way but one of the few more average tracks- 3/5
10. Rockstar- One of the biggest hits and discusses the poser type rockstars of today and perhaps those whose time in the spotlight has past. The verses don't have quite as much of a tune to them as I would have liked but they work with Pharrells muffled shout and the chorus is very, very cool with its damning lyrics 'you think you dont have to ever quit.. you think the light will be everlit, its almost over now' over a driving synth tune. I actually in some ways prefer the more tuneful Orbit remix but the orginal song here is still superb- 4.5/5
11. Bobby James- Another change of pace with a song which reminds me a little of Provider in its chilled out, story lyrics and classical guitar riff. The chorus is again delightfully particularly towards the end with female backing vocals. Its at once a very chilled out soulful tune but also tells a sad story- 4.2/5
12. Stay Together- Really great closer. The song is kinda a psych piano tune sounding similar to The Beatles 'Strayberry Fields' in its instrumentation. The chorus is also very orginal with its dissident progression and vocal harmonies with very soulful cries of 'lets stay together girl' in a James Brown or Otis Reading kind of way. Its a really great track and not like anything else on the album- 4.5/5
Overall this is a superb modern hip-hop album from some of the guys responisble for shaping much of modern popular music. Its even more amazing considering these guys roll out hits almost daily for other artists that they have the creativity to create their own masterpiece. The album isnt perfect- its more average in the middle and some tracks have similar effects in them, however each track does really have its own vibe and its own tune to it. The first 4 and last 3 tracks are obviously the best but theres not much wrong with those in between them either- Run To The Sun and Tape You are quite cool in their own way. For me this is the best hip-hop album of the last 5 years, well actually its restrictive to just call it hip hop or r'n'b because its quite rocky in a way and has elements of electronica in it.
This is I'd have to say an essential purchace and will work just as well at a party as it will to listen to on your own. I urge strongly you to buy this album and also to catch them in concert cause they are the best band Ive seen live, and Ive seen quite alot- Incubus, Chillis, Greenday, Rolling Stones, Weezer and many others. Their follow up- Fly Or Die was quite good but has nothing on this one.
(Note- The band has said they broke up due to being unhappy with their record company but they retracted that statement later)