Last month, NME asked Cypress Hill‘s Sen Dog what fans could reasonably expect from ‘Elephants On Acid’, the acclaimed rap trio’s first studio album in eight years. His response was simple: “It’s a pure Cypress Hill album from start to end.” And it turns out that he wasn’t lying: ‘Elephants On Acid’ is a record that will delight the legions of fans who have unfailingly stuck by Cypress Hill over their 30-year career. However, it does very little to win over the unconverted.
For the most part, this is because it’s an absolute slog of an album, featuring a marathon 21 tracks of varying quality and weirdness. On early effort ‘Put Em On The Ground’, we’re given the briefest of throwbacks to the iconic West Coast sound that defined the furious flow of their 1991 debut (“Every morning I wake up in a bad mood / Attitude’s fucked up – he’s a bad dude”). But then things take a turn for the strange.
‘Jesus Is A Stoner’ aims for a twisted spiritual statement, but it doesn’t quite come off. Instead, it occasionally sounds like the disjointed ramblings of someone who’s smoked just enough to believe that titular statement. There’s also the curious presence of instrumental interludes such as ‘Holy Mountain’ and ‘Elephant Acid’, which epitomise the kind of otherworldly vibes that run through the entire record. Overwhelmingly, though, this sounds like pointless filler.
Still, there are hints of greatness late on. ‘Warlord’ sees the flow of DJ Muggs offering a message of impassioned defiance in the face of apparent darkness: “Wasting time, wasting away, tasting the bitterness of hate / Chasing the demons, running from the spark”. All considered, though, ‘Elephants on Acid’ is a frustrating listen, flitting between the unbeatable glory of Cypress Hill’s 90s and the eventual journey into middling experimental rap that followed.
When it’s great, we see exactly why the world first pricked up its ears in 1991. But those moments are sadly overshadowed by a barrage of tracks that becoming increasingly surreal and tedious as the record progresses. There’s plenty for old school fans to love, but it’s the sound of a band doing whatever they want, safe in the knowledge that they’ve already cemented their legacy.