Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Album Review: P.O.S. - We Don't Even Live Here

Album Rating: B
The most notable difference in 2012’s P.O.S. is he isn’t taking himself as seriously, and this is big news considering 2009’s Never Better. The album existed as a call to arms against pop culture, but in a tightly scripted manner. Each moment was precisely constructed, and every minute detail captured carefully. Never Better is an anthem of its own, but it’s an entirely different beast than the punk-rapper’s latest release, We Don’t Even Live Here. Instead of intricately planned beats, we’ve got more straight-forward punches that are as effective, albeit in a different way than before.

The most telling example (and most memorable track) on We Don’t Even Live Here is “They Can’t Come,” a classic hip-hop track with the catchiest beat. And that’s the thing - the beat consists of a single note on the piano, accompanied only by a drumbeat Tommy Lee could play. There’s no reason for the song to be more than it is, and the only area in which it happens to be complex is through the lyrics. Doomtree collaborator Sims excels here, providing notable lyrics to the greater picture at hand: “I don't do what it takes anymore; I demand.” And P.O.S. entertains the image of a younger Stefan Alexander in elementary school, armed with his Chucks. (“Sick fuck, punk with a rat in his book bag / pig pen with a head full of “deal with it”.) The lyrics work so well, though, because the music lets them breathe.

This is another characteristic of We Don’t Even Live Here, lyrical prowess being the most complex aspect of the music. “Get Down” is a nihilist’s wet dream, told through vivid imagery and exciting wordplay, but the song’s unforgettable because of that damned dirty dutch synth. Similarly, P.O.S. paints a rather dark picture with “All Of It.” (“We ain’t gotta throw stones at a glass house / we break in, just so we can smash out.”) And while the lyrics are capable of holding their own ground, they’re as successful as they are because of the song’s chaotic, yet stable, backbone.

Overall, P.O.S.’s latest effort is quite the fun diversion from the norm. Tracks like “Bumper” and “Piano Hits” really stick with the listener, and show a positive result from the Minnesota-born rapper’s experiments as of late. However, there are also a few downfalls to this technique. The album occasionally misfires with hopeful anthems that don’t mesh too well with P.O.S.’s playful production preferences. “Lockpicks, Knives, Bricks & Bats” is an attempt at a crowd-gatherer, a way to flesh out the crowd’s anarchistic tendencies. However, the effective lyrics are diluted by the song’s drowsy structuring. A half-sung, half-rapped chorus exists only to split up the stumbling verses, saturated in potential but never quite reaching a resolution until the song’s last minute’s bombastic percussion. It’s little too late, though, and a few other tracks on the album sizzle out in a similar manner.

However, the exciting moments of the album are well worth one’s time, and redefine P.O.S.’s role in the underground hip-hop realm. “Where We Land” is a fun collaboration with Justin Vernon, a slide towards the radio that’ll only gain more popularity with time. It’s all in good fun, though, says “Fuck Your Stuff”; the song blatantly mocks American consumerism with carefree verses about Nikes and kicks. By emphasizing the mundane, P.O.S. points out what truly doesn’t matter in this world. It’s not a dire message, though, but one which exists to entertain.

This brings us back full circle, to the meaning of We Don’t Even Live Here. P.O.S. utilizes electronic music to tap into new resources in which to further enhance his messages, and the album’s all the more worthwhile because of it. Sure, there’s the occasional misstep, but what else would we expect from such an insane album? P.O.S. wasn’t going for flawless with this one, but for genuine music, art that has its flaws but sticks with the listener through its brutal honesty. The man couldn’t have expressed the idea any better than in “Get Down”: “we fuck shit up because shit’s fucked anyway.” Yeah, life can be a bitch. With that knowledge, though, comes the readiness for next time it takes a turn south, and maybe in the meantime we could just dance it off like P.O.S. himself.

  1. "Bumper"
  2. "Fuck Your Stuff"
  3. "How We Land" (feat. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver)
  4. "Wanted Wasted" (feat. Astronautalis)
  5. "They Can’t Come" (feat. Sims)
  6. "Lockpicks, Knives, Bricks and Bats"
  7. "Arrow to the Action – Fire in the Hole"
  8. "Get Down" (feat. Mike Mictlan)
  9. "All of It"
  10. "We Don’t Even Live Here (Weird Friends)"
  11. "Piano Hits" (feat. Isaac Gale of Marijuana Deathsquads)

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