As a rock journalist, I’m forced to hate my own kind. I mean, really. We do some stupid things. First off, we tend to like obnoxious bands like The Liars and The Rapture, who, really are the same band, with interchangeable hairstyles. Then we call everything “album of the year,” when, really, there can only be one, and it’s probably none of the albums we previously said it could have been. Then we do things like saying Rancid’s Let’s Go is the new Give `Em Enough Rope, when, clearly, that’s not the case either. Needless to say, I’m doing my part not to act like the typical rock journalist.
But dammit, it’s so hard to clear our good name (if there ever was one) when some doofus goes and says that Prefuse 73’s One Word Extinguisher is the Sea Change of electronica. And yet we wonder why people don’t like us.
I don’t know what “the Sea Change of electronica” means, exactly, but it’s certainly not the first thing that came to mind when I put One Word Extinguisher in my CD player. Extinguisher, the second long-player by Atlanta’s Prefuse 73, whom we’ll refer to as Scott Herren (not to be confused with Gil Scott-Herron), is a heady, sublime trip into hip-hop psychedelia that bears little to no resemblance to the Beck album of last year. Herren readily admits that Extinguisher is a break-up album, much like Sea Change, but let’s be honest here — if he hadn’t told us, we wouldn’t have known.
Prefuse 73 occupies a space in electronic music somewhere Autechre and DJ Shadow. Herren’s style is definitely hip-hop in nature, but takes cues from that cerebral armchair stuff as well. “Uprock and Invigorate” is a pretty, downtempo song incorporating a shuffling beat underneath a repeating Fender Rhodes riff. “Busy Signal” begins with some human beatbox action before transitioning into a majestic urban anthem.
One of the real standouts, however is “Huevos With Jeff and Roni,” a minute-and-a-half collaboration with Mr. Lif, recorded through a minidisc mic. Vibraphone samples chime underneath one verse of Lif’s rhymes about social and political issues. Without the proper buildup, he never manages to get into specifics, but damned if it’s not a Hell of a teaser.
Bits and pieces of found sound and movie and TV dialogue fill the interludes between songs, leaving no space on the CD vacant. And the album flows well as a whole, despite some notable standouts.
One could argue that the song titles (“90% of My Mind is With You,” “Female Demands,” “Why I Love You”) would give the listener reason to believe that Herren had his mind on a female during the recording of this album. But I’m still not convinced. A bold, pretentious claim is still a bold, pretentious claim.
When one dude from Atlanta is able to reinvent electronica in such a fresh way to make all those U.K. Big Beat duos look so stale by comparison, a Beck comparison is just petty and cheap.
And Prefuse deserves better.
RJD2 – Deadringer
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.