Trading his American emcee cape for a British accented post punk nine-track stunt, Lupe Fiasco’s Japanese Cartoon is dropping rocking for free download (I might add free, did I say free?) their first album, In The Jaws Of The Lords of Death. So LupE.N.D is not yet in our midst but can we wait while giving a heads up to In the Jaws of the Lords of Death? Yes we can!
Japanese Cartoon is Wasalu’s extended, or extending, personality captured into a rock band. One might shudder at the mention of another musician’s side wing undertaking but this is Lupe Fiasco the phenomenal, the prodigious MC (in capital) and this up-to-now-hidden wing of his might turn out to be made of gold…
Japanese Cartoon is the sum of Wasalu Double J Jaco, Graham Burris, Matt Nelson and Le Messie plus explosions of guitar riffs and bass, relentlessly jamming to charged up unquitting drum hits.
It has been heard written that Lupe insists he is not the singer in Japanese Cartoon – and to cover up the deed, a (weird) British accent tinges the lyrics’ delivery. But were we ever taken in by Clark Kent’s spectacularly physically un-altering spectacles?
So rev up! Lupe Fiasco is writing new scores that tell he can also do punk rock, let’s take an ear-look:
From the initial sonic onslaught of ‘Jaws’, hard edged twangs and drilling mash ups of electrified strings are turned way up, way on. ‘All Sabotage!!!’ smashes in with a hungry beat and Lupe’s unmistakable sense of delivery surfaces. Spitting the lyrics on rugged tones of bass that give it up for sudden smooth R&B talk (a cheeky wink), ‘All Sabotage!!!’ sails off towards ‘Heirplanes’ announcing calmly that, “We are phantoms of the future.”
A shaking 4/4 rhythm goes down moody on ‘Oh What A Lie, Oh Me! Oh My!’ – and as one of my favourites, I hope it receives all the positive attention it deserves. Building momentum, the mischievous bass of ‘Beijing’ rekindles the fire harder. High and blazing this track, with the essential solo breaks, drives forward with a tongue drumming as hard as the beats with pearls like, “She shed Shakespeare tears for the battle of Algiers on both sides.”
‘Crowd Participation’ picks up the compelling speed and its switch of rhythms together with a more complex sound dimension is excellent. I love free fall so when the bass disappeared for a roaring ‘Hu!’ I was won over. ‘Radioactive’? Radio-active for sure.
From ‘Firing Squad’ the tone changes, however. There is a sudden emptiness or simplicity in the works, a stark contrast to all that came before. At that point, my attention wandered; even the massive breaks of drumming didn’t do it for simple me. I couldn’t really pin-point my sudden change of heart other than noticing the incongruity of the synth trying to sit in with the other culprits of the band.
‘You Are Here’ is all guitars and massive drums and Lupe spits a similar energy to Enemy of the State mixtape (gotcha!) – but once again the instrumentation doesn’t blend. An ambient synth soundscape attempts to colour the track.
‘Spoiler’ – this title contains a fantastic rapping potential so it’s a shame that it falls short. I shan’t attempt to recall ‘Army’ – I hope you forgive me – and I’ll move on to a chilled, melodic ‘Gasp,’ which picks up the album and puts it back to the standard of the beginning. This last track opens the question to you listeners: to try or not to try?
You should, it is a rousing album, downright fun, more akin to rock when all is said and done but the coinage ‘punk’, be it post or proto, is always much more thrilling and tickles all manners of hell-bending sonic dreams.
The album as it stands for me has a clear energy divide: I was blasted high by powerful electrifying guitar attacks and sixth gear drumming until the sixth track, where the energy suddenly receded from grating my musical spine to slower, barer pacing allegories. That was a bit of a let down, I felt, but others might welcome the slide.
In the Jaws of the Lords of Death is Lupe Fiasco’s versatility affirmed. Thanks to Japanese Cartoon for the gift; I’ll come back for more.
Download In The Jaws Of Death from www.allsabotage.com