Scott Mescudi’s power lies in his ability to tap into his inner despair and deliver his brand of urban angst that connects today’s youth. His music encapsulates their ongoing struggle to face their demons and drugs and alcohol and an oppressive society. That music has powered him to two successful albums and has afforded him the opportunity to stretch his wings a little bit. Dot da Genius is in tow and the duo, WZRD has released their eponymous debut album.
This collaboration leaves much to be desired. Any artist should be commended for having the courage to step away from their comfort zone, but WZRD is just not good. The inherent issue is Cudi’s delivery in the world of full-on Rock & Roll. His laid back, rear-throat voice does not fit the tracks on this album. Heavy, muddy electric guitars, particularly on the slower tracks, rob him on the melody that serves as one of his biggest weapons. All but gone is the fluidity possessed on Mr. Rager.
The short album (11 tracks) is on a Keith Sweat mission to make it last forever. An extended energy draining track, with an out of phase drum and plodding guitars, sounds outright amateurish and doesn’t add anything to the album on “The Arrival.” Cudi’s vocals are in trouble from the outset on “High off Life.” This track calls for higher pitched traditional Rock vocals. Lyrically the song is cool as Cudi struggles with the straight life, away from the drug-addled existence he’s trying to leave behind.
Dithering sound vacillates from ear to ear on “The Dream Time Machine.” The melody returns and those heavy guitars aren’t there to drown him out. Cudi sounds at home on the airy, electro-tinged groove with an extended hook arraignment. “Love Hard” brings amateur night back with its thump and fast-twitch guitars and Cudi actually “bla-bla-bla-ing” the intro. The song as a whole isn’t that bad and it’s quirkiness works because of its speed and execution.
Somewhere in the middle lies “Live & Learn.” The song writing is solid and the construction is solid but vocally he is just a fish out of water. He does his best to replicate that loud, deep Dave Matthews cadence on the hook, but it doesn’t pass muster. “Brake” flaunts abrasive guitars on the intro and dreamy, hazy guitars into empty cavernous space for a loud but empty sound. The slow development of the song saps the will to listen which is sad because the actual track is fairly interesting. The hum and the drums toughen it up a bit and remove the excess as Cudi attempts to “find his way.”
The crackle of record wax and atmospherics lead “Teleport To Me, Jamie,” an awesomely-titled, slickly-executed “I miss you” song. It reaks of 80s Euro electro rock and is corny as fuck, but that’s the intent and it’s pulled off nicely. “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” is assassination by acoustic with the strum of the guitar beating you over the head as Cudi beats his girl over the head pondering the title. Kurt Cobain he is not.
More acoustic death comes with “Efflictim.” It reminds me of the music teacher that knows 3 chords and only plays the songs that involve those chords. The emo nature of the song and the heavy-handed atmospherics that only punctuate the stabbing guitar strums makes this the worst song on the album.
Dr. Pill changes direction with lengthy distortion as the base element while Cudi rambles and a drum tries but fails to normalize the beat. The song just rambles, even though the writing again is stellar. It’s just ill-fitting. The album closes with “The Upper Room,” The least cluttered construction on the entire album. It’s one of the higher notes on the record and probably the best chance to close on a good note.
This album is Jordan swinging at fly balls. Why someone who is winning at Pop-Hop would choose to be mediocre at Rock is beyond me but at least he tried. It feels like Jay-Z on Watch The Throne. With another vocalist with the wail of Axl Rose, this album could have been better. As is, it’s a game of chicken: aggression to the point of self-destruction. Sometimes it’s better to stay in your lane.
2.25 Out of 5
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