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Freddie Gibbs/Madlib - Bandana Music Album Reviews

On their second album as a duo, Madlib and Freddie Gibbs pull themselves deeper into one another’s worlds.
On paper, Freddie Gibbs, a straight-shooting street rapper, and Madlib, an eccentric tinkerer, are as mouth-watering a combo as licorice and pickle juice. But their collaborative 2014 album Piñata succeeded because the two are equally uncompromising: Madlib tailors beats to his eclectic ears alone, while Gibbs insists that he can rap over anything. Kindred spirits, the pair bonded through mutual gumption.

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Chromeo - Head Over Heels Music Album Reviews

Chromeo - Head Over Heels Music Album Reviews
On their bona fide all-stars album, everyone from DRAM to Amber Mark to The-Dream cannot save the electronic duo from their tastelessness.

Karl Marx said that history repeats “the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.” Like a slap bass or Zapp drum, it’s an irresistible cliché, but useful. Chromeo first got me thinking about Marx because they got me thinking about Daft Punk. Like the louche robots, Dave 1 and P-Thugg began in Francophonic bedrooms with a strong personal style and a predilection for funk licks, which they took to increasingly vast crowds as white, heterosexual guys rediscovered the joys of dancing their girlfriends and gay friends and POC acquaintances never forgot. Cue a crisis of credibility perhaps inevitable after sticking around for fifteen years and voila: Chromeo’s Head Over Heels, a bona fide all-stars album, Random Access Memories-style, that attempts to show off their own bona fides.

Head Over Heels aims lower than its counterpart from a few years ago, and in all fairness, does achieve a funky kind of farce. Chromeo rounded up some studio legends—Jesse Johnson, who co-wrote classics like “The Bird” and “Jungle Love” as an original member of the Time; Raphael Saadiq, who seemingly produced every hit of the ’90s; and Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, who did the same in the ’00s, or at least those not produced by The-Dream, who also sings on this album—and enlisted their solid musicianship in the service of some really dumb ideas.

Which is all to say, Head Over Heels sounds expert, expensive, accomplished, while being distasteful in almost everything else. First single “Juice” pours out a sugary, intoxicating groove reminiscent of ’80s boogie masters Mtume, whose Tawatha Agee provides backing vocals, then sours it with some gross ideas about power dynamics: “Relationships ain’t a democracy,” oh, Jesus, gross. “Must’ve Been” is a sort of “Fuck You” after the weed kicks in; it’s hard to get excited about a talk box these days, but Johnson’s guitar is so ticklish, and DRAM’s harmonies so pretty, you might as well giggle, if you can, at the lyric’s macho theatrics. To be fair, it’s the cost of doing business if you’re a fan of the band that brought you “Needy Girl” and “Sexy Socialite.”

If the album is typically weird about women, it’s worse about money. “Slumming It” starts out with, “She got lipstick on my blue collar,” and it’s downhill from there. Imagine “Common People” without the class consciousness, or “Uptown Girl” with a protagonist even less believably marginalized than Billy Joel and a (pretty good) saxophone solo instead of the faux-Frankie Valli lilt. And “Bad Decision” is a very Ivanka Trump kind of love song, in which a guy gives his future over to the credit industrial complex to show his devotion. “Let’s book a shopping trip, maybe I could charter a jet/And I don’t give a shit if I never get out of debt,” he croons. “Take out all my money from the bank/Take you around the corner, buy a ring…You make me want to make a bad decision.” Falling for this acquisition-as-affection is a bad decision too.

On the upside, “Just Friends” could tear the roof off a particular kind of penthouse party in DTLA or Williamsburg, mostly due to the super-charismatic Amber Mark and a groove that stays out of her way. But you might as well listen to Maroon 5 if you enjoy the slickness, and there are dozens of better bounces to be had from Atlantic Starr to Daft Punk themselves, nevermind Nite Jewel and Thundercat and Ariana Grande and the list goes on. Head Over Heels might replace the duo’s trademark mannequin legs on the cover for their own, but these days such co-opting of realness is real meh. It’s genderfluid like a tech bro in a stunt romper drinking a Monster. The farce is strong with these ones.

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