Few things are more dangerous to good pop than a perfectly gifted artist who thinks his music isn’t smart enough. This is the kind of attitude that combines the most perilous ideas a musician can have: the urge to ignore or downplay the strengths of his past work; an underestimation of what this allegedly inadequate music actually means to fans; a presumptuous and elitist idea of ​​what ‘advancement’ entails – and then gives an uncomfortable push to the longtime listener: if you’re not ready to grow and develop with this new style, you would maybe better this old sloppy bullshit with the rest of the security hungry leaders.

There was a naturally furious reaction on the internet to a quote from an allhiphop.com interview in mid-2004 with Rjd2, where the then in-demand indie rap producer claimed he considered much of his production. hip-hop like “dumb music”. It was a layoff that involved everything since his aging debut in 2002 Doppleganger (which touted “The Horror”, arguably one of the most amplified hip-hop instrumentals of the decade) to its solid work with Soul Position at caliber Pete Rock “Saliva”, the best beat over Viktor Vaughn (MF Doom ) Villain of vaudeville. And while his attempts to straighten out the context of the quote were fervent – helpfully making it clear that he didn’t think the whole hip-hop production was stupid, he just felt mentally stunted to make his own at times – it’s always hard to tell. ‘avoid feeling like you’ were played like a sucker for investing a lot more time and interest in this music than its creator apparently did.

Everything seemed to come to a head near the exit of Since we spoke, released around the time of this infamous interview: As an extension of Rjd2’s post-Shadow plan, it was a successful effort to make a mostly instrumental, retro but still sounding funk / rock album using modern techniques. of hip-hop production. But successive interviews and articles have revealed that it also caused enough technical headaches to cause Rj to believe that the search for samples was a dead end, that ProTools was the enemy, and that he was really meant to be an author. -pop composer like Elliott Smith or Britt. Daniel.

The third hand is Rjd2’s big, important musical statement, intended to announce his transformation from lumpenprole beat flogger to a true pop artist (read: rock): Aside from the drums, everything on the album is from an actual instrument played by Rj, which he then assembles and deforms like a sort of Todd Rundgren’s homunculus. Unfortunately, this turns out to be troubling proof that he’s lost without someone else’s preexisting sounds to extrapolate and transform. It always takes inspiration from ideas from other artists * – The Third Hand * is full of lightning indie pop touchstones like Stereolab, Syd Barrett-era Floyd and the Zombies – but the album feels like a Money Mark record too ambitious, keyboards swelled its grooves until they sounded cramped and irritable. Between the quivering harps and weeping mellotrons and the delicate, dusty electronics littering the album, Rj must be thinking that all you need to do to turn into a pop genius is imagine what the soundtrack will be like. ‘a Zach Braff remake. Wild style would look like.

What still remains of his hip-hop backbone – the mighty drum breaks that were his commercial stock dating back to his Mhz days – feels grossly out of place. The beats seem bullish and dominant amid all the lightness, giving turbo boost to songs that seem to ride better, and forcing the uprock beats to crudely cram paisley ascots into their Adidas track tops. “Rules for Normal Living” is a particularly odd attempt at a dance floor, sticking the album’s only semblance of electro-style rhythm in the middle of the track – almost like a punchline – and delivering it with a whistle. whistling that sounds like the greasy, arthritic version of Kraftwerk’s “Tour de France”. “Sweet Piece” is even more confusing: “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” by The Gap Band, without funk, a sterilized caricature of a groove that loses all of its promise once you understand its idea of ​​an instrumental hook. melodic is a noodle -shell armed with a synth riff that evaporates almost immediately. “Just When” ganks the opening beat of “Billie Jean” (or an incredible simulation of it) and turns its sleek, minimalist 4/4 into a crowded and stopping traffic jam.

Much of the disappointment of The third hand is one of waiting, and things that initially register like foul-smelling molasses can sometimes surprise you. The two best instrumental tracks on the record, “Get It” and “The Bad Penny”, lack the bravery and heaviness of his previous work, but still feel alive and well crafted, even though they tend towards baroque psychedelia. that they cannot reach enough. But another reason they stand out is that Rj doesn’t sing over them. Before this record, Since we spokeThe closing track from “Through the Walls” was his only other meaningful attempt at writing pop lyrics, and with his flat, non-engaging voice hesitantly mumbling words that sounded like fridge-magnet power-pop poetry, he demanded. practically someone with a little more presence takes over the lead vocals. (Luckily, someone yelled at Ric Ocasek to make the remix.) The other vocal number on this record – Labi Siffre’s wispy, syrupy cover “Making Days Longer” – is the unfortunate precedent for Rj’s turn to life. vocal melody, and the same half-hearted falsetto is unleashed The third hand.

Typically overdubbed in semi-coherent oblivion and grinding gears between tongue-in-cheek and over-dramatic, his voice is a squeaky mess, squeaking non-sequitur high notes and juggling both false British (Bille Joe Armstrong sounds like Ray Davies in comparison) and faux-soul (ibid. Jamie Lidell and Teddy Pendergrass) assignments. Not that no voice can save the words: between the poorly scanned turns of phrase (“She can be eaten with beer and meatloaf”, from “You Never Had It So Good”), unnecessary comparisons ( “Little Princess / With her little ways gone wrong / You should ask her / About the dates she had / Mr. Legend, Dr. Civic and Mr. Lexus”, from “Sweet Piece”) and the shots Knife out of place on populist topics (“Have Mercy” makes his downtown job as heartbreaking as the woes of a Lightnin ‘Hopkins song), Pharrell can rest easy knowing that “Her ass is a spaceship / I want to ride “dropped into” rap producer turned singer writes something laughable “ranking.

Unfortunately, The third hand is aptly titled: It looks like a step below the second hand. Would it have been less ridiculous if it was a debut out of nowhere from someone we had never heard of instead of an attempted breakthrough by one of the best hip producers? -hop underground? Marginally, if that. And maybe if Rj uncovers the flaws and finds his limits, there’s a good chance he’ll do what a few other writers predicted and produce a pretty good Gorillaz record in a few years. But after reading him say he’s more interested in making records that people would like to sample than sampling other people’s records, one can only hope he’s right and that a future producer may save something from this debacle.