Review: Jack Foley
THE vibe surrounding N*E*R*D is one of the coolest doing the
rounds in the hip-hop world at the moment, given the high-profile
of The Neptunes, as well as Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, in
Remix specialists, high-profile collaborators, and artists in
their own right, N*E*R*D would appear to be the name on everyone's
lips since the release of their debut, In Search Of
a couple of years ago.
Album number two, needless to say, carries with it a hopelessly
heavy burden of expectation, so it is little wonder to find that
it falls someway short of the status you feel it warrants.
Undeniably hip it may be, but the N*E*R*D boys don't really push
any envelopes, or come over too cool, which makes things more
than a little disappointing.
But once the realisation that this isn't the best hip-hop album
the world has ever seen sinks in, there is plenty to enjoy.
Joining the boys this time are the likes of childhood friend,
Sheldon Shay Haley, as well as Lenny Kravitz, while
missing is Minneapolis funk outfit, Spymob.
Hence, the album draws on Brit pop elements, and classic rock
rifts, for some of its inspiration, not to mention the soulful,
swinging sound of the Seventies, rather than the funk-roots of
The result is a much more eclectic album than In Search Of,
which feels a little more accomplished. Almost as though that
missing element has been found.
This is borne out in tracks such as Wonderful Place, with
its feel-good whistling, and smooth beats, or the driving bassline
and laidback acoustic guitar of current single, She Wants to
It is during these moments that N*E*R*D come close to realising
the hype surrounding them, and stops attempting to play within
N*E*R*D, first and foremost, are associated with the hip-hop
movement, so it occasionally feels a little off-kilter (dare I
say, wrong) to find them delving too deeply into rock.
So whereas singles such as Breakout resonate with a soulful
quality, with psychedelic undertones, opening track Don't Worry
About It, or title track, Fly Or Die, feel a little
awkward and not really something that N*E*R*D should pursue in
In fact, the first part of the album, up until the single, is
why it feels so disappointing, for this marks a departure from
the N*E*R*D sound we were probably anticipating and hoping for.
Only when it returns to more familiar territory, does it find
its stride, especially during its middle section.
The themes of the album encompass most of the dilemmas a child
witnesses while developing, from bullying, during the track, Thrasher,
to rebellion, in the no-nonsense Drill Sergeant, and the
awkwardness of first-time love, with Backseat Love.
The lyrics are as frank and explicit as we have come to expect
from the team behind such in-yer-face tracks as Lapdance.
And Kravitz guests on Maybe, which delves back into rock,
but somehow benefits from the sound of an accomplished guitarist.
Another great track, and surely a future single, is The Way
She Dances, which manages to combine The Neptunes' signature
hooks with a funky, Studio 54 vibe, that really marks the album
at its finest.
If only the whole thing was as consistently cool, and relaxed
about things, we may have been talking about a classic. As it
is, N*E*R*D's Fly Or Die is merely good.
1. Don't Worry About It
2. Fly Or Die
4. Backseat Love
5. She Wants To Move
7. Wonderful Place
8. Drill Sargeant
11. The Way She Dance
12. Chariot Of Fire