Big Dada/Ninja Tune
Busdriver makes music that calls out for a multimedia experience. The new album, Perfect Hair, already has videos for Colonize the Moon and Ego Death. It’s anarcho-rap. One of the earlier singles was called Avantcore. The advance guard, no rules, make them up as you go.
It’s impressively wordy, if a little self-aware, but without the vocal allure that would make you listen again and again to make sure you have every word. And when a line drops out like “I’m so hungry man I could eat the rich,” it’s almost too easy. But with lyrics like “napping in the serpent’s lair, you got that perfect hair” and a side reference to a “dog’s anal glands,” at times it’s a stream of consciousness that could use some editing.
The album starts out with Retirement Ode. There are overtones of Spearhead at first. And with a thrown out “driver” the front and center vocal comes in with “Hi I’m Reagan and I don’t rap for free.” Phrases stand out, but you’re not sure why. “My clothes are dirty and I’m over thirty” or “Fuck my life in a puncture wound.” A chorus repeats “How sick I’ve become.” The disembodied voice announces the album “This is Perfect Hair by Busdriver”, but it’s unclear what the most important agenda is here.
Bliss Point feels like the start of something. But so far it’s not certain if the strange factor on this is sustainable.
Ego Death starts out with speaking, “Yeah I know what you’re saying – but is it sexier than torture?” then quickly moves to a shout out “Los Angeles.” It sounds like someone is talking to himself, reporting on what is outside the window. The repeating deep sound with the constant flow of words, only interrupted by “We can make this better” gives the idea that the window is in a hot car in traffic, frustration looming, sound and environment overwhelming. But when one of the closing phrases that stands out is “It’s not domestic violence because she likes that shit,” you wonder what it’s really all about.
It’s a question that comes up while listening to the whole album. All these words, so many of them, coming at you like punches in a fight you’re losing. Maybe that’s the point. Ego death defined is the end of consciousness, going permanently insane. The part of the chorus that is “But we’re not /Yes we will/We just looking for something inside us to kill” gets that across. But the song ends with Perfect Hair mentioned again. Is taking irony too far a little like a double negative?
Motion Lines has “Girl this rap shit left me worse for wear and I ain’t got that perfect hair, my love feels like a cervix tear.” Um, ok?
Colonize the Moon (featuring Pegasus Warning) is weird and soulful at the beginning, with a tripped out medieval chorus starting it off. The vocal on the “Colonize the Moon” repetition is pleasing, dreamy. Then “If you were here for the last song about world leaders and street fashion” abruptly brings everyone down to earth, as does “I don’t make money like an NFL running back.” The words start to jam up together like they can’t get out fast enough. Then “This money ain’t made for saving children it’s to help me colonize the moon” and we’re back in the chorus. The contrast between the flow of words and that slowed down phrase is very sharp. “My story lies underneath,” is the last line of the album, and it’s over.
Perfect Hair may be trying to make sure that we understand the end of society has arrived. But you can make the point and still miss the mark.