Rantings, reviews and lists from a person who structures half his life around obsessing over music.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

El-P - I'll Sleep When You're Dead (2007)

4.0 ★/8.0 - 8.9

For all it's paranoia driven anxieties, dark subject matter and terrifying atmosphere, El-P's second solo album feels, oddly enough, like a comedy. Check out "Smithereens (Stop Crying)," which opens with a playful children's theme song for the first ten seconds, before El-P demands the music to bring him "the dramatic intro...machine." Suddenly the song is abused by an exaggeratedly brooding synth march before transforming into a militaristic horror-groove. If that's not enough to get you chuckling, try listening to a line like, "why should I be sober when god is so clearly dusted out his mind" with a straight face. And there's a reason why "Habeas Corpses," the disturbing story of a futuristic forbidden love between soldier and prisoner, is delivered with laughter at the end of the track. El-P certainly has a sense of humor about his cynical views, which is why I'll Sleep When You're Dead is so successful. Like on Eminem's early albums, everything is delivered tongue-in-cheek so that when he really goes off the deep end into despair and desperation, you never get too overwhelmed. Still, that's not to say that you shouldn't take this album seriously. If I'll Sleep When You're Dead had to be classified as a single sub-genre of comedy, it would probably be Satire, the most serious-minded of all the styles. You can hear El-P dripping with contempt and sarcasm when he litters stripped down club tracks like "E.T.M." and "No Kings" with hellish dance-chants and cynical-minded observations of corrupt cops and drug addictions. The Hyphy and Crunk movements are at the peak of their popularity and to this rapper, the connections between the downfall of serious hip hop and the downfall of society is worth laughing about. It may be easy to regard his Bukowskian outlook as a little excessive, but he addresses all possible criticisms appropriately on "Drive": "I'm not depressed, man. I'm just a fucking New Yorker who knows that sittin' in traffic with these bastards is torture." In every respect, once you wade through the layers of scornful muck on I'll Sleep When You're Dead, you'll find this producer's latest to be one of his most pointed, playful and effective works to date.

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