Sound — 5
I honestly had really high hopes for this album from the very opening of its first song, "We Have Candy," where Yolandi Visser tempts partner and bandmate Watkin Tudor Jones (known as "Ninja") to the dark side with nothing but a cup of coffee. Admittedly, I was hoping to be in for some real Devin Townsend-esque "Ziltoid"-style storytelling, but in more of a way that includes lots of silly hip-hop antics. And the beat mixed with the sort of symphonic choral intro had me enticed. However, it didn't take long for the standard hip-hop macho posturing and drug use references started, and it kind of all just fell apart.
Now, the beats and melodies in that first track were actually not that bad. Aside from the uncomfortable lyrics, it was a fairly decent tune. "Daddy" is also an uncomfortable song to listen to in any lyrical context, and it just did not stick with me in any way on a musical level. "Banana Brains" starts with a rather catchy synth hook and vocal melody, and definitely feels like the album's most overtly commercial track. The electro-house-like beat is probably the best part about this tune, but I can't say I really care much for Ninja's rapping. Yolandi's voice has a very interesting sort of whisper-like quality to it that's actually kind of nice, and unlike any other singer I can think of at the moment.
The next several tracks are just not that great. Whether it's the hyper-sexualized "Gucci Coochie," the violent posturing of "Shit Just Got Real" or the facepalm-inducing duo of skits "Wings on My Penis" ad "U Like Boobies?" "Rats Rule" features Jack Black, and his cameo is incredibly cheesy, with a weird sort of operatic vocal over a Halloween-ish pipe organ. It's a bit of a weird moment of comedy relief that feels a little out of place on this album, and does briefly save it. Around this point in the album, the quality of the music seems to pick up a bit, with a little bit less emphasis on the weird, silly sort of skits and poor attempts at dick jokes, and the focus shift does pick up some of the tracks near the end. Yolandi sings the entirety of "Alien," and it's actually a pretty cool tune. "Stoopid Rich" ditches the sort of weird "symphonic" elements of some of the previous songs, and focuses mostly on Ninja's rapping. It does have some really nice ambient synth sounds, and it does feel a bit more like a "traditional" kind of hip-hop tune.
"Fat Faded Fuck Face" has a kind of weird sort of chilled out sound, with some of the album's angriest lyrics, including some Afrikaans insults to someone's mother, sung by Yolandi. Despite some rather silly lyrics, the track has a different feel from the rest of the album, and its lullaby-like quality sets it apart quite nicely. Dare I say this is one of the few tracks I actually enjoyed on the record. "Street Light" (which interestingly has a polyrhythmic synth/drum part setting a 3/4 synth line over 4/4 drumming) also features another decent intro, with some more de-emphasis on the first half of the album's silliness. And even though the track's rapping sounds like a lot of boasting, there's a bit of a lyrical twist I appreciated afterward. "Darkling" is another Yolandi-led track in the same vein as "Alien," and it is actually a very nice tune. The way the lyrics (again, sometimes in Afrikaans), music and melody mix is great. The closing track, "I Don't Care," is another vulnerable-sounding love song with both Yolandi and Ninja singing together.
The production is sparse and minimal in parts, with only the barest elements in the backing music, but there are a few tracks with a bit more of a symphonic, operatic element. Admittedly, my knowledge of the various styles of EDM and house is very limited, but by the time we get to the second half of the album, I actually quite enjoy the sounds of the beats and synth pads used. The same can't really be said for much of the first half of the album, though. I feel the beats in some parts are either just inconsequential to the song, or a little overblown, or just cheesy as hell. I definitely appreciate the more downbeat, chilled out beats of the second half.
Lyrics — 5
Drugs, sex, and murder are the ingredients that make up a lot of the lyrical content on this album. In the first half of the album, a lot of the lyrics are often cringe-inducing. The skits, "Wings on My Penis" and "U Like Boobies?" were just some of the most cringeworthy pieces I've ever heard in my life (though I do admit to laughing a bit at the line "Don't want Nike's/don't want Adidas/all I want is wings on my motherfucking penis"). And Jack Black's cameo on "Rats Rule" seemed to try to come off as funny, but it just completely missed the mark for me. "Daddy" and "Gucci Coochie" were a little too sexualized for my own tastes. There's a lot of the typical sort of hip-hop posturing throughout the album, as well, with "Stoopid Rich" and "Fat Faded Fuck Face" being full of boasting about wealth and popularity, and tracks like "Shit Just Got Real" and "Street Light" featuring violent imagery typical of the genre, which perhaps holds a bit more weight coming from the streets of Johannesburg than my rural Canadian upbringing would know of, but I did appreciate the twist at the end of the latter track where Ninja shows remorse over his actions. In the second half of the album, the lyrics take a bit more of a personal, vulnerable tone, especially in the tracks led by Yolandi's vocals, where she sings about battles with depression and addiction and parental issues in her upbringing. The album's closing track, "I Don't Care," reads as a sort of love song between Yolandi and Ninja, and it's actually kind of a beautiful moment. But there are far too few of those on the album, and most of it, especially on the first half, is just kind of silly boasting, dick jokes, and drug references. Yes. We get it. You got weed and smoke blunts. To me, it's a lot of offensiveness for offensiveness' sake.
I did enjoy Yolandi's singing, which has a weird sort of whispered, childlike quality to it, and it fits very well with the more downtempo sort of beats they used on the latter half of the record. Any track that she sings mostly on her own is going to be one of the better ones on this record, and I'd be intrigued to hear if she ever does some solo material.
Overall Impression — 5
I'm going to get this out of the way and admit right now that my knowledge of rap music and EDM are very, very limited. Right now, this album is sitting next to Devin Townsend and Dillinger Escape Plan in my playlist (after the gentle, lulling "I Don't Care," the opening strains of "Sugar Coated Sour" were QUITE the wake up call!). That being said, there were some interesting, and unique moments on this record. There were a few noteworthy beats, some of the lyrics were actually surprisingly well-done, and I'm definitely finding myself being mostly a fan of Yolandi's singing on this record. But there are also a lot of really awkward, silly, and just downright awful moments on this record as well, and it did make this a very difficult record to get into. If you're a regular user of this website, it's easy to assume you're going to be one who listens to a lot more guitar-based music (and no surprise, there's only one guitar part that I've been able to recognize on this album, a slide guitar part used in the beat for "Shit Just Got Real"), and you're probably into darker, grittier music (especially if you're the type who reads about the albums I typically review), so I would definitely recommend skipping most of the first half of the album, save for the opening track "We Have Candy," which has some of the most interesting music on the album, and the commercially inoffensive "Banana Brain," and start the rest of the album on "Stoopid Rich" or "Fat Faded Fuck Face," because it's the songs from there on in that are the best ones on the record. It's a record with two distinct halves, and there are definitely going to be some people who are actually going to like the first half better, but I'm not one of them.
Overall, it's a bit of an interesting mixed bag of an album, but it's not a style that's going to appeal to everyone.