Saturday, October 08, 2005

earCandy: N.E.R.D. - Fly or Die (2004) 5/5

N.E.R.D. (which stands for Nobody Ever Really Dies) is one of the most genre-defying bands in existence today. Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, the incredibly successful production duo behind the Neptunes, partner with childhood friend Shay to bring us the second strangely compelling and very listenable N.E.R.D album. With solid hip-hop credentials combined with a driving rock sound, the best of these tracks are tunes you could play in any crowd. No one has a better grasp of hooks than Pharrell, and they are plentiful here, but combined with that are some meaningful lyrical moments and intricate arrangements that are all too rare in today's popular music.

First, let me tell you that I have very eclectic tastes in music and I like bands that cross a lot of sounds (Beck, Ween, Frank Zappa, etc.). From the chart-topping single, "She Wants to Move", the group diverges into the teen anthem titular track, "Fly or Die", and then settles into more laid-back tunes like "Wonderful Place". Then out of nowhere comes my favorite song on the album (which is buried at the 4.20 mark in the "Wonderful Place" track), the beautiful, string-laden "Waiting for You" which chronicles a family's fishing trip where their baby falls from the boat, narrowly escaping drowning as its mother comes to the rescue - the song can bring tears to your eyes. Indeed, my only real complaint about the album is that there are too many of these songs buried in other song's track numbers - a little annoying when you really want to hear a specific tune. Despite this, Fly or Die has grown on me with each listening to the point where it is one of my favourite albums of the past few years.

Thankfully the rumours of N.E.R.D.'s breakup are untrue - the result of some offhand remarks of dissatisfaction from the band with their label. I've combined the best tracks on this album with the best tracks on their debut, In Search Of..., and the result is an hour and twenty minute CD that you can put on for almost anyone to enjoy (I can post the track listing, if anyone is interested). If you like your music to expand past the narrowly defined boundaries that music label marketers would like you to think in, then you'll like N.E.R.D. - I really don't think there's another band like them.
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10/08/2005 09:05:00 p.m.  


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