Major Lazer – Guns Don’t Kill People…Lazers Do Major Lazer – Guns Don’t Kill People…Lazers Do

Major Lazer - Guns Don't Kill People...Lazers Do

Major Lazer - Guns Don't Kill People...Lazers Do

The story goes that Jamaican music was born when the AM footprint of soul stations in the Florida Keys finally fell over the island. In the collision of the traditional island music and the robust groove of rhythm and blues was born reggae music, bass-driven but syncopated unlike anything in the American pop landscape. Early reggae and ska musicians performed essentially translation, taking Detroit and making it Kingston. Eventually, they developed a completely unique sound, equally part of the Anglo and Jamaican musical tradition. So, it’s fitting that dancehall, modern heir to this union, would play the role of Motown in the 21st century’s development of a new world-encompassing musical pidgin.
It might be fair to call Major Lazer’s effort “dancehall”. Rhythmically, most of the tracks would probably fit the description, but many or most of them are so tweaked from typical boilerplate riddims that they sound completely fresh. Thematically, the tracks follow pretty typical dancehall motifs – being tough, sex, being cool, sex, drugs and sex. The singers, by and large, are cherry-picked from the top ranks of contemporary dancehall – Ricky Blaze, Mr. Lex, Turbulence, Jah Dan, Ms. Thing – but these names are joined by American undergrounds divas Santigold and Amanda Blank, Swedish party starter Mapei and international man of mystery Prince Zimboo. The lineup suggests that this isn’t an homage, it’s an attempt to take it to the next level. It ain’t your daddy’s dancehall.
The first track “Hold the Line” is a driving, insistent production built on a couple of surf rock riffs, an insistent and spare rhythm, dubby effects and sound drops. On top of this we get Mr. Lex and Santigold oozing attitude while relating a story of phone sex turned I-need-you-now crisis. Easily one of the highpoints of the record and already remixed by every producer on the planet (the Dave Kelley mix is top-shelf) the track sets the tone.
The rest of the record is generally deep, dark and production-effect heavy takes on dancehall that really stretch the boundaries of the genre to the extreme. Listen close and you’ll hear the swerving basslines, overloaded rhythms, popping high hats and bubbling electronic beds of drum ‘n bass, dubstep, kwaito and miscellaneous bass-driven flotsam all wrapped up in a hip-hop fierceness that brings to mind equally Clipse, Ellen Allien and On-U-Sounds.
The twin futuristic battle anthems “Anything Goes” and “Lazer Theme” sung by Turbulence and Future Trouble respectively are 100% hot fiah and the stone cold Club smash “Keep It Goin’ Louder” will be making asses drop this summer for sure.
In the end, this record has two main appeals. First, it is a tour of the dancehall-y end of what Wayne Marshall has termed “global ghettotech” by two of its more prominent proponents. Secondly, it is a collection of next-level dancehall anthems. In this second sense, the very thing that made the record – a left-field dancehall album by a multi-national cast of performers produced by an American club DJ and a European house DJ – possible is what causes it at points to seem a bit ordinary: the internet. In a world where a new genre is born, incubated and released into cosmopolitan culture inside of a year or two, innovation just doesn’t stay innovative for long.

Track Listing:

1. Hold The Line Ft. Mr. Lex & Santigold
2. When You Hear The Bassline
3. Can’t Stop Nowlisten
4. Lazer Theme
5. Anything Goes
6. Cash Flow
7. Mary Jane
8. Bruk Out
9. What U Like
10. Keep It Goin’ Louder
11. Pon De Floor
12. Baby
13. Jump Up

Major Lazer - Guns Don't Kill People...Lazers Do, reviewed by BillP on 2009-07-30T10:44:45-07:00 rating 4.2 out of 5

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