5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I wanted to like it, but...,
This review is from: The Outsider: +DVD (Audio CD)
If you've read anything from the Shadow camp about this album you may already have reservations about the new direction taken for this release. Unfortunately I can't say anything to reassure you, and as a massive DJ Shadow fan I really wish I could! "The Outsider" is Josh Davies' third major studio album. The previous two releases "The Private Press" and 1996's classic "Endtroducing..." plus the rarer early release "Pre-Emptive Strike" set a high standard. Add to that side projects such as the legendary mixtapes "Brainfreeze" and "Product Placement" with Cut Chemist, "Psyence Fiction" as a member of James Lavelle's UNKLE, and Solesides and Quannum Projects and fans have understandably high expectations of any new material.
"The Outsider" is a far more diverse collection of styles than the previous albums and includes many contributions from rappers and vocalists as well as live instrumentation, all of which differs greatly from the sample based instrumental work that Shadow is known for. The trouble is that I've heard most of these styles done better elsewhere and this incoherent collection makes Shadow seem like an impressionist mimicking his influences rather than taking inspiration to create anything new or exciting from them. Now don't get me wrong, change is a good thing and I don't think an artist should try to relive past glories for the rest of their career, but I would have expected better than this from someone with DJ Shadows back catalogue. Not that "The Outsider" is a bad album, it's just a bit of a strange one. Shadow jumps through an array of styles encompassing funky soul, psyche, hip hop, rock, Morricone sounding instrumentals, Thom Yorke / Primal Scream (circa Evil Heat) style indie and hyphy - the grimey hip hop sound from the Bay Area which Shadow is vocally championing. Unfortunately these hyphy tracks are my main concern with "The Outsider". At times sounding like weak derivatives of Missy Elliot and (eek) even Eminem these tracks left me wondering what Davies, not only as a producer but as a prolific collector and music fan, was thinking. Much of the rapping is tediously uninspired and in the case of "Keep em close" just painful. "3 Freaks" and "Backstage Girl" cause me further problems as they demonstrate the cliched hip hop misogyny that had been happily absent in Shadow's previous work.
I can't help but feel that this is an album by an artist less concerned with making great music but more interested in achieving broader commercial success. There are good (but not great) tracks on this album, which are also stylistic departures, "This time (I'm gonna try it my way)" and "What have I done" are highlights. With such a wide spectrum of sounds it feels like Shadow is casting his net too wide by trying to be "all things to all men". As a result "The Outsider" makes difficult listening and I predict that anyone will do so with one finger on the skip button.
If you are a DJ Shadow fan you'll buy this anyway, just don't expect too much and you probably won't be disappointed. If you're new to Shadow start elsewhere.