Ghostface Killah, Raekwon and Method Man, “Wu Massacre” (Def Jam)
Had “Wu Massacre” been released by anyone besides Ghostface Killah, Raekwon and Method Man it would be a triumph, but when these three guys get together the expectations are a bit loftier. And while it’s not an album that’s going to transform hip-hip, it’s a testament to the fact that these guys can still bring it.
“Wu Massacre” hums along at a steady pace with only a single track dragging toward the end of the album. And it’s a great album from a production standpoint — the beats and samples sound fresh even as they draw from classic funk and soul. Producer RZA and a number of others create backgrounds that have depth but don’t try to do too much. Ghostface Killah, Raekwon and Method Man keep pace with the beats, with Ghostface and Raekwon sounding the strongest of the three.
“Wu Massacre” is a success in the sense that there are no throwaway tracks, but it lacks the head-bobbing anthems the best hip-hop albums have in spades . In the end, the listener is left to ponder how much better this album could have been. — Greg Stieber
Paul Weller “Wake Up the Nation” (Yep Roc)
Though generally unknown in the U.S., Paul Weller has been an icon in the U.K since his formative days in the late-1970s with his mod punk group the Jam, and later with the suave social consciousness and ’80s-funk of the Style Council.
His prolific solo career, which kick-started Britpop in the ’90s, continues with his latest and one of his very best efforts “Wake Up the Nation” — a perfect summation of everything he has done before as well as a vital look to the future.
Having recently turned 50, Weller shows no sign of slowing down. He is still full of youthful energy and spiky attitude whether cranking out punky numbers like “Fast Car, Slow Traffic” (which reunites him with ex-Jam bassist Bruce Foxton); blue-eyed soul such as “No Tears To Cry;” slinky danceable funk in “Aim High;” or anthemic rock: “Find The Torch, Burn The Plans.” Further, he is not afraid to experiment as is notable when the swirling studio effects and rave-up psychedelia of “7 & 3 Is the Striker’s Name” assault the listener to a glorious degree.
What’s best of all about “Wake Up the Nation” is that Weller makes all of these different styles work together to create a vibrant record filled with short punchy songs ensuring that listeners won’t slow down either.
— Michael Behrenhausen
Tunng, “…And Then We Saw Land” (Thrill Jockey)
Weirdo British electro-folk outfit Tunng softens a bit on its fourth album, the pleasant, relatively accessible “…And Then We Saw Land.” And while diehards may miss the more experimental aspects of previous recordings, “Land” feels just about right, shot through as it is with playful eccentricities that never stray from the upbeat mission.
Opener “Hustle” sounds like its name, a bumping, propulsively whispered track that shoves its banjos and interlocking grooves to the forefront. It’s all a bit cutesy at times — think Belle and Sebastian’s more precious male-female vocal moments — but at least never overtly winks at the listener.
The album really starts chugging with “It Breaks,” mashing the sprightly, downcast plinking of Elliott Smith’s later work with gorgeous female vocals courtesy of Becky Jacobs. It’s as intelligently layered as any Shins song and nearly as melodic. Other standouts, such as the Nick Drake-indebted “Don’t Look Down or Back,” toy with their influences by dropping bulbous, roiling choruses into the quiet folk proceedings.
Yeah, tired ’60s British folk revivalism surfaces from time to time (the respectable but been-there/heard-that “October”) and some tracks are clearly trying too hard to become the next big outsider anthem (the grating, repetitive “Sashimi”), but overall Tunng has found an impressive balance of influences and originality. — John Wenzel
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Michael Behrenhausen is a Denver-based writer, musician and occasional Reverb contributor.
Greg Stieber is a Denver freelance writer and regular contributor to Reverb.
John Wenzel is the co-editor of Reverb, editor of the Get Real Denver blog and an A&E reporter for The Denver Post. His book “Mock Stars: Indie Comedy and the Dangerously Funny” was recently published by Speck Press. He also maintains a Twitter feed of random song titles.