NERD – ‘Nothing’ review

Pharrell - hateful but, fortunately, pretty talented

Even though one suspects that the man himself finds it rather easy, it’s really hard to love Pharrell Williams. He’s like a one-man embodiment of Napoleon syndrome. Despite overwhelming evidence to support the notion that he should quit vocal duties forever, he continues to labour under the delusion that his cochlea-shredding falsetto sounds like anything other than Prince with his scrotum in a vice; and still he raps, despite the fact that he can no more drop a decent couplet than he can shit Fabergé eggs.

He dresses like a teenage skateboarder despite being 37, a look that isn’t even good if you actually ARE a teenage skateboarder. And through it all, he wears a face that, in its shark-eyed blankness, seems to betray an infinity of smugness, as if he’s so wealthy that basic human emotion is beneath him.

Unfortunately, he also makes some of the greatest beats on Earth. Curse you, Williams! On his last solo outing, 2006’s ‘In My Mind’, Pharrell was able to call on the likes of Gwen Stefani, Jamie Cullum, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg and Nelly to help out vocally. The fact that the album was really good proves Pharrell to be the one hip-hop act, more than any other, whose work benefits heavily from a cast of thousands, mainly because it means there’s less of him on it.

But anything NERD-y thrusts Pharrell to the fore (NERD average: 2.5 collaborations per album), and so it is again with ‘Nothing’. So it’s strange, not to mention galling, to report that this album is OK – opener ‘Party People’ is a frenetic rush of bouncy synth-funk based around catchy vocal chants that even Pharrell can handle; ‘Perfect Defect’ is urgent and funky, fat with brass and tickled piano; ‘Life As A Fish’ a lovely, lush bit of OutKast-style symphonic oddity; and the closing ‘Hot’N’Fun’ an entirely irresistible romp through pastures old skool.

You can skip ‘Hypnotize U’ and ‘I’ve Seen The Light’ because he’s unleashing that falsetto again, but overall ‘Nothing’ is light on those “Oh God, Pharrell, will you STOP trying to sing in that stupid voice/rap ineptly” moments. Now if he’d just put on a nice smart shirt and some slacks…

Pete Cashmore

Click here to get your copy of NERD’s ‘Nothing’ from Rough Trade Shops.

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