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DudeAsInCool

N.E.R.D - Fly or Die (2004)

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N.E.R.D.

Fly or Die

[Virgin; 2004]

Rating: 3.1

True thirty year-old nerds:

Justin Morgalis.

After I flicked the back of his ear repeatedly in seventh grade Geography class, Justin grew a beer gut and became a computer systems integration analyst for CSC, who forced him to take an etiquette course to better hand clients. He wears discount golfing attire from strip-mall department stores and a Motorola clipped to his belt. When not resorting his online fantasy football roster from his suburban Atlanta home, he drives a Korean car.

Rick Ricardi.

Rick Ricardi's hairline receded in the ninth grade. His hirsute body, however, led him to Senior year back waxings. That same year an assistant basketball coach accidentally ran over Rick with a golf cart in P.E. class.

Forgotten Unknown Crazy Kid, 1986.

The Forgotten Crazy Kid carried a large briefcase to every class and never talked. The case was never opened and never left the FUCK's side. A bully confronted the FUCK in the hallway outside Pod A (Georgia was experimenting with unconventional class sub-structuring concepts in the 1980s) and demanded that the briefcase be opened. The FUCK mumbled no. The bully grabbed the briefcase's handle and fierce tugging ensued. Everyone gathered around like it was a cockfight. We all wanted to know what was in the case, pity for FUCK or lust for the cool bully aside. The case burst open. Hundreds and hundreds of unsharpened pencils spilled onto the synthetic floor.

Brent DiCrescenzo.

Brent writes meta record reviews for an online magazine.

Pharrell Williams.

Pharrell Williams wears a diamond and gold skateboard around his neck. Ingrid Sisley kisses him on the cheek. Supermodels get his voice mail. In his spare time between writing worldwide pop hits as part of the Neptunes production duo, Pharrell records funk-rock with falsetto lyrics like, "Unzip your skirt, take off your blouse," and, "I fucked you from behind," with his band, N.E.R.D. Really, Pharrell Williams is no way a nerd. Not in the Eddie Deezen mold or the Harry Knowles mold or the Ramones mold.

Debating the validity of Pharrell Williams' bandname seems like a contentious trifle, but the dude continuously positions himself as a wide-reaching musicologist. In the press, he seems convinced that merely mentioning the fact his record collection contains Steely Dan, Chick Corea, Stereolab, and EPMD coupled to his role as producer of tracks for the likes of Britney Spears and Philly's Most Wanted makes him a pop prodigy crossover messiah. The name "N.E.R.D." arrogantly admits to a higher IQ, while excusing Williams' potentially embarrassing prog-R&B hybrid as a goofy cult experiment. Sadly, like a tackle-shocked J.O.C.K., Fly or Die is stupid and boring.

Publicists limit their vocabulary to the Hall of Fame when thinking up superlative comparisons for their acts. One article alone already compared Fly or Die to Sly Stone, Frank Zappa, Queens of the Stone Age, Curtis Mayfield, The Beatles'Rubber Soul, and De La Soul's Three Feet High and Rising. No shit. Actually, it'snot like two of the best albums ever made and three of the most brilliant people to ever record music. (Sorry, Josh Homme. Your band's mention is the 2004 way of saying "it has loud guitars.") Oddly, Fly or Die finds the safe middle ground between Adam Ant's rumbling Burundi-drummed new-wave pop, Earth, Wind & Fire's digital elevator nightmare Raise!, and Lenny Kravitz's Folgers granule guitars.

Pharrell croons, "Her ass is a spaceship I want to ride," in the somehow standout track, "She Wants to Move". Let's assume N.E.R.D. are travelling around the Earth in this ass-ship at 299,985 kilometers per second. Inside, Pharrell, Chad Hugo, and the useless guy wear their "astronaut suits from the BBC" ["Jump"] and ramble through the entire album in its 44 minute runtime. Back on earth, we observe the ass-ship moving at 99.995% the speed of light broadcasting Fly or Die from speakers fixed into the "exhaust port" of the anatomically detailed craft. To the asstronauts inside, the album last 2640 seconds, but to the listeners on earth, that same album seems 3.05 days. And that's just relativity. Einstein never factored in two consecutive tracks on a record featuring whistling or two consecutive tracks growing so bored with themselves that they slip from their own unmelodic pop into introverted moebius jams concerned with fishing stories and sounding like Nile Rogers producing Gentle Giant. For a production team renowned for their bleating, percussive keyboards, the synthesizers here sound milkier than Vangelis.

Forgetting the musical shortcomings for a moment, let's shift focus to Pharrell Williams' abysmal lyrics. "Chariot of Fire" begins, "I wrote this song when I was drunk." True or not, this is a no-win situation, lyrically speaking. Strike "she," "bad," "ass," and George Carlin's 7 words from Pharrell's vocabulary and he's got nothing. There goes the entirety of "Don't Worry About It". Other lyrics rarely surpass the expletives of a dad stuck in traffic: "Shit happens/ just blow it off." "Gonna make you feel rage." "Fuck 'em up." "Breakout/ Push people." These are entire choruses and hardly fit the writing style of a supposed nerd. To further the point, Pharrell invites Hot Topic cosmetic counter explosion casualties Benji and Joel from Good Charlotte to "spit" on "Jump". The one that looks like your gay aunt's mascara brush whines, "Hey, Dad/ Okay, Dad/ That's what you say, Da/ I never could obey Dad/ Punk rock tattoos/ Leather jacket/ Good grades don't come with that package." Actually, this is the most academic the album gets. Who is that kid fooling? He's more B's and C's than CBGB's.

In trying to expand their sound beyond commercial hip-hop, N.E.R.D. has exposed both the shortcomings and silver linings of the genre. Taking the simple chest-beating, booty-humping themes of club hits into overproduced Phish-rock territory merely exposes their offensive banality. Expanding the minimal, percussive rhythms of turntables to florid, multi-layered studio fusion rock only underscores the power of economy. And that's in the "spartan production" sense, not the "Pharrell Williams' presents The Billionaire Boys Club Clothing Line" sense. Each track is bloated and soft like Morgalis' middle, and waxed clean of texture like Ricardi's back. Though Pharrell Williams poised himself at the center of millions of people's attention, he's spilled his head to show nothing but unsharpened pencils.

The last year has seen The Neptunes beat themselves into tired ubiquity. For every "Milkshake" or "Bubble", there are ten "Change Clothes" or "Frontin'". Fly or Die was their appropriately titled chance to evolve beyond staccato acoustic guitars, bongos, and robot synths and stake their claim as true personalities in music. Sadly, when left to their own devices they seem more fascinated by the opening clang of "Purple Haze", yet technically unable to reproduce any other element of Hendrix's playing, style or impact. They need the pop tarts dropped into their toaster. On their own, N.E.R.D. are the hip-hop Toto. And the nerdiest thing about Pharrell Williams is that he probably takes that as a compliment.

-Brent DiCrescenzo, March 26th, 2004

http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/record-revie...ly-or-die.shtml

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Guest .::BeatFactory::.

This CD was below par IMO. It just had nothing "oooh" about it. Even the current single they have now is not much to me.

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fuck pitchfork media, what kinda of bullshit review was that?

anyway

im with beatfactory, it was below par, but i liked that second to last tune alot

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just reading that article made me hav that song in my head, ummm... tha new 1 with tha dog and the grl in it. -i think it did its job. :D

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no, their new cd is shit. the only worthwhile track that came out of it was the DFA remix of "she wants to move" -- they put the hottest beat behind it, and the track is fully different.

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I got it and i'm not that excited

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oh lol okies.... well that song sux now neway :bigsmile:

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