If ever there was a time to just say, “Man, fuck this hip-hop shit, I’m about to get into indie rock,” certainly this year would be it. There’s hardly been a worse time for the genre, both artistically and commercially.
Meanwhile, indie rock seems to be on a pretty ridonkulous upswing. We’re only something like six weeks into the year, but already there have been new albums by the likes of the Shins, Bloc Party, the Arcade Fire, and Modest Mouse. A few of them have even been that good.
It’s almost as if the heads of several minor record labels all got together at the end of last year and collectively decided to frontload 2007 with great (and in some cases kinda meh) new music, for the sole purpose of renewing Bol’s faith in the power of rawk.
I’m not saying this is what was going through RJD2′s mind when he decided to ditch Def Jux and put out his new album The Third Hand on XL Recordings. I’m just saying. Indeed it’s too bad this new album apparently just wouldn’t work on Def Jux.
As Def Jux label chief El-P himself put it:
At first, it was like, “Oh, shit. No, man. We don’t want to lose you.” But at the end of the day, I respect these dudes. And I respect RJ, because he was like, “I just don’t think you guys are the label for this.” And I was like, “Fuck you. Of course we’re the label for this.” And then he played me the music, and I was like, “Oh, right. We’re not the label for this.”
So what is this new RJD2 album like, anyway? After all, 2004′s Since We Last Spoke, with its soft rock textures, was already straying from what could typically be referred to as the Def Jux sound. And the new album by El-P himself, which I got in the mail the other day, has got all types of crazy shit on it, including guest appearances by everyone from Trent Reznor to Cat Power.
As it turns out, the key difference between The Third Hand and anything else RJD2 has done to date is that the guy is singing all over it, as if he was Sufjan Stevens or somebody. The only problem is, he most certainly isn’t. How in the world this seemed like a good idea to anyone other than himself is beyond me.
Which is not to say that the guy’s singing is so bad that this isn’t kinda enjoyable, because it is. Kinda. At the very least, he seems adept at playing to his admittedly rather limited strengths, in the sense that he doesn’t attempt anything particularly difficult. At least not vocally. And some of the beats are pretty killer.
If anything, the fact that this works as well as it does speaks to his ability as a producer. You just wish he’d find a worthier project than himself.
You can stream a few tracks from The Third Hand at RJD2′s MySpace profile.