The first reviews are in...
Meth opens the album, spitting steady over a heavy warped plodding beat that definitely cocks a nod towards the ’36 Chambers’ days. Ghost declares “We gon’ have a ball – might as well pick a testicle.” We hope he’s talking to the ladies.
‘TAKE IT BACK’
Subtle flip of a classic break with the Wu lining up to rhyme over it – these days there’s a good argument that you don’t really need your older rap gods to do anything more than that. Rae sounds fresh, and Ghost spits hard.
‘GET ‘EM OUT THE WAY PA’
Big beastly electric bass tones underpin this, and it’s a reinvigorated Meth who takes the spoils again while Ghost and Rae tag-team on the chorus.
Rae’s talking about “Excalibur swords, T-Rexes”, GZA’s explaining “energy that shifts in colours”, and RZA’s mush-mouthing about, er, the Lord Of The Rings. This is the Wu getting their nerd on.
Ramping up the tempo, this rattles along a fair treat with all sorts of percussion mixing with some punchy horn stabs. Deck destroys it with his verse (though “Wu-Tang – keep it fresh like Tupperware” might not be his most assured punchline) and RZA references Meth’s recent crowd surfing tendencies. A Wu-Tang toe-tapper and not a million miles away from U-God’s overlooked ‘Wildstyle Suppafreak’ or Masta Killa’s ‘Digi Warfare’.
‘THE HEART GENTLY WEEPS’
AKA the one that’s meant to get indie rock kids to buy the album. Not as unhinged and exciting as Ghost’s original solo take, it admittedly sounds much better in the middle of the album than on its own, and Meth’s great on it, basically rapping as if he were his character Cheese from The Wire. It was blatantly meant to be titled ‘My Gun Gently Weeps’ though.
There’s some animal predatory nonsense going on in the chorus while the beat’s again got that mystical vibe to it. Not one of the essential album moments.
‘GUN WILL GO’
Some late night dark alley business, Rae opens rapping in that hush-hush style he’s been rocking on and off for a while now, then Meth builds on it talking about “Poverty Island”. Two-thirds of the way through RZA throws in some almost dubby echo effects, but this would be a billion times more brilliantly menacing if they ditched the singing on the chorus.
Basically a skewed Wu-Tang funeral march, with RZA holding down all duties on the mic. Not too far removed from ‘Jah World’ on ‘The W’, and a suitable mid-point for the set.
‘STICK ME FOR MY RICHES’
Unless it’s sampled from an old soul record, you really don’t want to hear a modern Wu-Tang Clan track open with a whole minute of singing, as happens here. The bounce style hi-hats seem out of place too. Possibly the ‘Ugh!’ moment of the album.
The Wu talk about girls, in their own inimitable way: “She acting all shy but she likes handcuffs”. Again, there’s a lot going on in the background with the beat, but the singing in the chorus could go. What happened to rowdy chanting?
RZA in soundtrack mode, this is an atmospheric slow-burner with a low key vibe to it. At the risk of getting repetitious, it’s a pleasant surprise how motivated Meth sounds across the project, spitting self-referential boasts like “In living proof I’m the wittiest unpredictable/Most talented rap motherfucker you ever listened to.”
Classic breakbeat with the Clan in straight braggadocio mode: “You can never find Zig’ weakspot – stop looking,” throws down RZA. There’s a small ODB interview snippet at the end of it to boot, which segues into…
Seven minutes of ODB tribute, with short laments from the Clan split up with a simple chorus. Deck gets the most introspective (“And I share the blame ‘cos you was calling for help kid/Shoulda coulda woulda had the time – I was selfish,”) while RZA’s tribute is the most comprehensive, revisiting Dirt Dog highlights. Not a verse or word from Ghost though, which doesn’t look good…
Too much mentalist ranting at the end scuppers this. One to skip.
‘16th CHAMBER ODB SPECIAL’
Bonus ODB from the vault business, suitably dusty sound quality and all, but it would have been nice if it followed straight on from ‘Life Changes’.
RZA’s definitely on something different with the production here, but it’s definitely in the lineage of the original ’36 Chambers’ style – the off-key and warped moments just sound sonically clearer these days. (It wouldn’t be too out there to suggest that during the recording the Abbott was listening to a lot of vintage Bjork and Timbaland while taking breaks out from the board to watch the Lord Of The Rings trilogy.)
Meth’s all over the album – and generally sounding really up for it – and on the basis of this you imagine locking him and RZA in a studio together would produce something very tasty.
Edit out the few too many tracks with sing-songy choruses, trim a little of the flab (‘Tar Pit’, ‘Wolves’), and you’ve got a set to please the Clan’s faithful fan base if not something to endear them to a whole new generation. Which was probably their intention at the start of the project anyway. Job done.