Friday, June 19, 2009

Guns Don't Kill People... Lazers Do

This past week I finally got my hands on one of my most highly-anticipated albums of the summer: Guns Don't Kill People... Lazers Do. Producers Diplo and Switch did an amazing job of keeping the album from leaking, and I had to wait until I received a pre-ordered copy for my birthday before I could hear their self-described electro reggae-dancehall hip-hop magic.
Major Lazer, whose name you'll never tire of hearing during all 13 tracks of the album, is "a Jamaican commando who lost his arm in a secret zombie war in 1984. He fights vampires and various monsters, parties hard, and has a rocket-powered skateboard." This little description from Wikipedia perfectly captures the essence of the album: it takes various things that people find cool and puts them all together into one ridiculously awesome thing. Indeed, the music is very diverse and is a product of many different influences, including marching bands, found sounds, old-school drum machines, and auto-tune. Each track is completely different, yet the album is unified under the simple goal of pushing everything to the absolute limit (which occasionally crosses over the border and into absurdity). However, it really seems like the album is aware of itself, and that's partly what makes it so good.

By now you should've all heard the first track and single, "Hold The Line," but if you only have the DJ radio edit you need to get the album version, which has an additional Kill Bill-esque intro that makes the showdown between Mr. Lexx and Santogold much more intense (and now Santogold gets the last word, which is great.) The second track, "When You Hear The Bassline," is a fiercer complement to the opener, featuring an incredible vocal performance from Ms. Thing and vocal effects similar to those used on the "Zumbi" song I posted earlier. The album makes an abrupt shift into some chillout reggae on the next track, "Can't Stop Now," which will find you singing and grooving along to the relaxing sounds of summer. Next comes the bad-ass "Lazer Theme" which is darker and much more inappropriate. "Anything Goes" comes next, opening with some awesome auto-tuned Jamaican stereotyped "yeah man"s and then developing a pulsating beat to go with Turbulence's vocal stylings. Another reggae song, "Cash Flow," follows. The halfway point, "Mary Jane," features a marching drumroll, some evil villain laughs, and some manic, high-pitched vocals declaring their love for marijuana, which "gives them wings like a canary" (this is also my favorite song on the album.) "Bruk Out" is sort of a continuation of the same dancehall beat, again featuring Ms. Thing. "What You Like" is a testament to the over-the-top explicitness of the album, and may be one of the most vulgar songs I've ever heard (which is bad for me because it keeps getting stuck in my head and I love to sing along.) "Keep It Goin' Louder" open Diplo and Switch up to a wider audience by paying homage to radio/club hip-hop (only done extremely well) but then "Pon De Floor" brings them right back to a more selective scene, featuring an energetic beat composed of wailing, siren-like screams. "Baby" is more of a skit than a song (it features Prince Zimboo comforting a crying, auto-tune baby) but when a beat gets added on toward the end of the 1-minute track it makes me wish it was much longer. Finally, the marching drums return with closer "Jump Up," which will make you want to do just what the title says. However, Guns Don't Kill People... Lazers Do is more than just a fun collection of danceable tunes (though it definitely is that.) The tracks sound even better in the context of the whole, and the album itself provides an exaggerated yet spot-on representation of the modern dance music scene. Definitely one of 2009's best releases.

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