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The Outsider no more
on 9 October 2011
I remember hearing High Noon and then Organ Donor on BBC radio 1's Evening session as a teenager back in the mid nineties, for me Shadow defined innovation and Endtroducing has become regarded as a timeless classic. I realise that such a totemic piece of work might become something of a burden for an artist, I remember buying the Private Press on the day of release and being brutally disappointed with it. Of course it's a work of genius in it's own right, but my expectations were such that anything less than a carbon copy of Endtroducing would have upset me...having learnt not to judge his albums so quickly I really tried with The Outsider but it failed to impress, it wasn't the hyphy tracks (there are some decent breaks there) but the prevelance of weak guest vocals from a fleeting indy scene that seemed to be watering down the work of a personal sacred cow.
So that's where we were before this album dropped and I can only tell anyone who possibly felt burned by The Outsider that with this album DJ Shadow is back to doing what he does best, which is stirring the heart strings in places, making your head nod in others and leaving you a little disturbed in others.
The Less You Know...opens with the declaration "I'm back" opening a wonderful schizophrenic Back to Front(Circular logic) and hopes are raised straight off the bat. The first five tracks are all strong in their own way, from the throw back cerebral hip-hop of Stay the Course (featuring Talib Kweli and Posdenous) to the gut wrenchingly appropriately titled Sad and Lonely. Track six is the only track I would discard and it's not Shadow's fault, the beat is driving and hypnotic and as an instrumental it would be fine but clumsy mockney vocals by Tom Vek make this a bit of an embarrassment to listen to. What then follows is a near twenty minute string of tracks that take you to another place, perfectly sequenced with your state of mind at heart, these songs brought that sense of awe back, from Tedium to Give me back the nights I can honestly say I was transported.
The only reason I give this album four stars and not five is the inclusion of I gotta rock (an ok track, nothing special...) on the regular release combined with the omission of the stunning Def Surrounds Us,it seems to break the continuity and the mood that had been built. Josh Davis has no obligation to produce any other art other than that which gratifies him personally and, as a long term fan, all I can say is that I'm grateful on this occasion that our tastes have coincided once again.