26 November 2013

26th November - The Roots' Phrenology

Artist – Album: The Roots - Phrenology
Released: 26th November 2002
Sounds Like: Head music

Last month we went to the Museum of Science & Industry to visit the new brains exhibition (that is, a new exhibition about brains and not an exhibition about new brains…). Now, I’m not really sure what fun things we were expecting from the grey subject matter, but I don’t think either of us imagined that it could be so harrowing and depressing. Amongst the horrors of trepanning and Nazism, the confining of people suffering from microcephaly to freak shows and the gore of the operating table, we learnt about phrenology, a popular pseudo-science in the 19th and early 20th century which purported that the shape of the skull and head could be used to determine intelligence and character. Colonial Europeans used phrenology to persecute races they had “proven” their superiority over. The whole exhibition was, quite literally, mental.

The Roots are clever guys (despite having the sloping brow and cranial bumpage of career criminals) and I’ve taken the fact that they have named their fifth album Phrenology as a warning to avoid stereotyping them as regular hip hop or R&B artists, rather than some sort of ill-advised attempt to reignite scientific racism. Black Thought, ?uestlove and co flit between genres with the energy of crackling synapses: ‘Rock You’ is, unsurprisingly, hard rock, ‘!!!!!!!!’ is a punky soundbite, ‘Break You Off’ is smooth neo-soul and ‘The Seed (2.0)’, well, “we’ll name it rock and roll”. All is achieved with an expertise and exciting experimentalism that few in the early millennium Neptunes-dominated hip hop scene could match, and the album is a clear influence on contemporary stars such as the New Orleans brainbox Frank Ocean.

Albumaday... rating: 8/10

1.       Phrentrow – 0:18
2.       Rock You – 3:12
3.       !!!!!!! – 0:24
4.       Sacrifice – 4:44
5.       Rolling with Heat – 3:42
6.       WAOK (Ay) Rollcall – 1:00
7.       Thought @ Work – 4:58
8.       The Seed (2.0) – 4:27
9.       Break You Off – 7:27
10.   Water – 10:24
11.   Quills – 4:22
12.   Pussy Galore – 4:29
13.   Complexity – 4:47
14.   Something in the Way of Things (In Town) – 7:16

Listen to ‘The Seed (2.0): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojC0mg2hJCc

Also released on the 26th November:
1965: The Kinks – The Kink Kontroversy

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