Tical 2000: Judgement Day
Thank God there's only one more year to go. Millennium fever blights the creative landscape now like nuclear paranoia in the '80s....More on
Now, [a]Method Man[/a] returns with a 74-minute soundtrack for the (seemingly inevitable) apocalypse, which eschews [I]Strange Days[/I]-style anxiety for a relentless tone of [I]Mad Max[/I] gloom. If the Wu-Tang Clan are the Dad's Army of rap, then on this evidence [a]Method Man[/a] [I]is [/I]Private "Doomed, we're all doomed" Frazer.
It's disarming to hear a grown man ranting on about bombs and plagues, though [a]Method Man[/a] hasn't given up the mic for the doom-auguring sandwich-board just yet. The overtones of 'Revelations' is just an excuse for him to survey urban decadence over a musical backdrop of sparse beats and baroque, spectral arrangements.
String samples shriek, piano loops float like ghosts, and the drums doggedly follow the same grouchy rhythm. Business as usual for the Wu-Tang Clan, then, but - though chiefly produced by other hands than those of The RZA - the sound rarely moves on from the blueprint laid down on 'Tical' four years ago. The coiled, contemplative production on tracks like 'Shaolin What' and 'Elements' give the album the feel of a hip-hop 'Diamond Dogs', and while it makes a change from anaemic [I]Grease[/I]-sampling charlatans, the noxious, murky atmosphere too often overpowers.
There are moments when the smog lifts, during the dirty blaxploitation funk of 'Retro-Godfather' and a hilarious, ego-deflated skit involving US comic Chris Rock. But even when Mef retreats from the inner-city frontline to check his own head, pessimism and fear hang heavy in the air. The Black Eyed Peas-style acoustic shuffle of 'Break Ups 2 Make Ups' is slight and saccharine, but the broken-heart rhyme rips into some two-timing girl with the usual blunt cynicism ("I hope it ain't love girl/'Cos I ain't got none left for you/Plus you're miserable"). After an hour of this, you start hankering for a Rutger Hauer movie as a dose of light relief.
End of a century. Yeah, it's nothing special.
To read all our reviews first - days before they appear online - check out NME magazine, on sale every Wednesday