It’s 16 years since the Avalanches’ era-defining ‘Since I Left You’. How can a follow-up that took so long sound so meh?
Futuristically Speaking...Never Be Afraid
Deconstructing their rhymes via gender politics is less rewarding than you might expect, though: you get the feeling Yo Majesty are too busy being awesome to bother with such problems, the struggles they must have faced pushed back to make place for positivity. Their lusts and rages are presented straight-up without politicising. Particularly open is ‘Fucked Up’, a restraining-ordered cousin of Kelis’ ‘Caught Out There’, Jwl B yelling about how she wants her lover to knock her teeth out, leering, “I can’t stand the way you breathe/But I like the way you fuck me”. As bunny boiling goes, it’s haute-cuisine rabbit stew.
Moving from the loony to the lusty, the Basement Jaxx-produced ‘Booty Klap’ is cheekily saucy. ‘Hott’ is downright rampant, as blush-inducingly raw as Spank Rock. ‘Never Be Afraid’ is hypnotically crunkish, while ‘Blame It On The Change’ conjures a few 8-bit bleeps and parps Crystal Castles wouldn’t kick out of bed. But rather than sounds, their innovation is their voice: as confident, witty and no-nonsense as ESG or Salt’N’Pepa. That said, sometimes you wish their sonic trousers were as big as their mouths; compared with say, The Cool Kids, the loose blend of dance and party rap with hints of Baltimore club and crunk is hardly bleeding edge, most likely a result of their sound originating with producers Hardfeelingsuk, with assistance from others around the world including Radio Clit and CLP. As their choice of touring partners (CSS, Gossip, Peaches) might indicate, this is crossover hip-hop for people who aren’t insiders.
The album is over-long, too, and a few songs less would have made it a leaner, meaner, more KAPOW-ing beast. All that said, when Jwl and Shunda’s flabbergasting spit is on form, it’s as compelling as a new, untired voice in rap always is. The only thing token here will be your resistance.
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