– Fly Or Die
You have to give it to the Neptunes: they’ve got balls. For their second LP as rock and soulers N.E.R.D., the group abandoned its backing band Spymob and learned the instruments they damn selves.
Do they have the chops? Not really, but it gives their spaced-out sound a surprising punk edge, perfect for a hip-hop band trying to connect with the Hot Topic set.
After playing things cooler than a polar bear licking an icicle in a snowstorm on “Don’t Worry About It,” the opening track, the N.E.R.D.s jump into two tracks about child-parent conflict, the latter of which, “Jump,” features mallcore darlings Joel and Benji Madden of Good Charlotte.
Despite this “reach out and touch some white kids” ethos, some of the sexual freakery of the band’s 2002 debut “In Search Of” remains, especially on songs like “Backseat Love” and the album’s first single, “She Wants to Move.”
Deeper into the album is a mish-mash of songs from the Black Rock Coalition Vibe of “Maybe” (featuring Lenny Kravitz and ?uestlove), to the angriness of “Thrasher” to the spiritual and singer-songwriter-y “Wonderful Place,” which ends with a story about a mother who rescues a baby from the ocean.
VERDICT: N.E.R.D. is one of those rare bands skaters and thugs can both agree on. Between Pharell’s strained yet soulful falsetto and the band’s rock leanings, N.E.R.D. incorporate every genre it can get its hands on and still sound like they’re from the future. Instrumentally, it’s not as tight as the previous disc, but Fly or Die makes up for it in lyrics and concept.