» El-P, Ready for Bed

“We should enjoy America as we want to enjoy it” screeched the simian overlord as he stood in the historical shadow of the crumbling twin towers. “Them folks” hate us and everything we stand for. “Go to Disney World” he jabbered.
El-P
The administration has offered up myriad PR clangers as fodder for the keener satirist – and satire can come in many forms. El-P’s allusion to this episode in Fantastic Damage’s Dead Disnee certainly wasn’t the lone political point on his first solo long-player. Undeniably a masterpiece of a record, price Fantastic Damage helped define El-P as an artist with a clear public persona like none of his previous work. Yet, website like this like the proverbial albatross, it has also left pressure to deliver more quality.

The 20th March approaches – as does the chance for those principled enough not to download a bootleg to finally hear I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead. Mercifully, the big man upped some joints on his MySpace ahead of the release date and all seems pretty promising. The limited output so far suggests a cleaner, more stripped-down sound. The production seems to have a little more clarity – a step back from the “wall of sound” that assaulted you on FanDam and one toward the restraint of his solo instrumental works.

This more austere production seems to avoid his vocals ever being drowned out. Yet if there is any reduction in intensity from the boards, the clarity with which his raps now get over leave the listener assaulted and invigorated in equal measure – just like his previous work. His sound – and doubtless his psyche – has lost none of the urgency, none of the paranoia and (somehow) none of the claustrophobia of his previous output.

This refined approach is aptly echoed in El P’s big literary hero. Philip K. Dick’s best works deal with his recurrent themes through a sharp, attractive narrative. Both VALIS and The Man in the High Castle deal with ideas that the certainties we anchor ourselves to may be false but the latter with an incisiveness that is not consistent throughout his back catalogue. Perhaps we the audience will experience ISWYD as an album that, by virtue of being less sonically crammed, ends up with more lucidity and more power.

Interviews for ISWYD will no doubt allow him to wax lyrically about the higher concepts that underpin this and all his work. His audience demands it and the El-P “brand” requires it. Unashamedly I will join his league of acolytes in hoovering up all this associated flannel, but American culture is doomed to entertain its audience even when saddled with the highest of ideals – and we are all the richer for it. In the torso of ISWYD will be a heart of pure hip-hop. The lyrics will be insightful and incendiary in equal measure, the raps will be fire and the beats will bang. I can’t wait.

Article by MF Hart

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