uwrfvoice.com
Saturday, October 3, 2020 Latest PDF issue  |  Give to the Voice  |  Search

Review

Junk Science’s hip-hop beats, weak vocals don’t mesh well on new album

Avatar

December 6, 2007

Sometimes, things are better together:  peanut butter and jelly, Abbot and Costello, movies and popcorn. Music has always been pioneered by pairs; Lennon and McCartney have written some of the best songs ever to grace our ears, Jonny Greenwood and Ed O’Brian have redefined what a guitar is, hell, even Milli Vanilli revealed the dark side of lip synching. On Gran’Dad’s Nerve Tonic, the hip-hop duo known as Junk Science reveal the uglier side of what happens when to artists attempt to blend, but fail to collide.

Part one of Junk Science is mixer/beat master DJ Snafu. The Brooklyn mastermind has skills. Using low-fi sounds (you can hear the crackles and scratches) and bluesy melodies, this guy can make feet bounce. Not only that (hip-hop better make you move), but you’ll care about what he has crafted. You’ll dig the open-string pops of the guitar riffs. The snare drum rolls will wake your senses, and the string arrangements he melts together will trick you to believe you’re in Oz. Not since Kanye West has mixing been this creative and thought provoking. If nothing else, listen to these guys for the instrumentals.

Part two of Junk Science is where Gran’Dad’s Nerve Tonic trips and stumbles. Emcee Baje One is the weak link in the pair. As you groove along “Slojo,” Baje One will interrupt and start preaching about the war in Iraq. Not that it isn’t noble to speak your mind, but it’s all been done before. Telling Bush to send his own sons into duty was said years back and everything else mentioned feels very 2003.

It doesn’t get any better after that. On “Woodchucks,” Baje asks us the classic and thought-pondering question of how much wood a woodchuck can actually chuck. Only he never gives us an answer to this stumping situation, in turn making us question our trust in him. At least give us something to care about. Nope, instead he spends most of the time saying he’s going to take a shit (not kidding) or trying to spark interest (saying “fuck” forty times in a song was controversial in, like, ‘88) and droning on about Jerry McGuire or whoever in dullness and bland variety.

There’s something underneath the surface. Baje has good intentions, he just can’t get his point made, especially when DJ Snafu is creating instrumental bliss behind him. Furthermore, each song is muddled with skits and nonsense speaking that should have been left out, as they are distracting and long. Gran’Dad’s Nerve Tonic is essentially a bittersweet outing. The production values are there, but the vocals are still yearning. The result is like ketchup on scrambled eggs:  some may like it, but for most, they just don’t mix well.

Matthew Loosbrock is a student at UW-River Falls.