Album Review: DJ Shadow – ‘The Less You Know The Better’

Posted: 17/09/2011 in Uncategorized

***As published on Entertainment.ie on September 9th 2011***

The pioneer of instrumental hip-hop with the stellar reputation for sampling returns with the much-anticipated The Less You Know The Better, a 16 track mish-mash which will undoubtedly divide opinion and cause debate. Fusing classic hip-hop with rock and a wealth of vocal samples, Josh Davis has produced an album which is diverse but which is also inconsistent. Not that consistency is what one should expect from an artist of the nature of DJ Shadow – but in the case of The Less You Know The Better, it just doesn’t fit together as it should, and what some hardcore fans may perceive as progressive and revolutionary comes across as inconsistent and disjointed.

The album gets off to a strong start, ‘Border Crossing’ and ‘Stay The Course’ engage instantly – the heavy guitar riffs of the former showing Shadow’s embracing of rock at its finest; the latter a catchy hip-hop track with an impressive vocal flow throughout. But it’s the laid back tracks of The Less You Know The Better that hold the most charm and appeal – the acoustic intro to ‘I’ve Been Trying’ setting up for a slowed down ballad which is one of the album’s highlights. Similarly, ‘Sad and Lonely’, a track which features a female vocalist against a simple backdrop of a lone piano, is poignantly brilliant… In fact it’s SO good that the song is reprised as the closing track. However, the album quite simply loses its way throughout – and when vocal sampling goes wrong, it goes VERY wrong. ‘Give Me The Nights’, with its sinister bass line under a male spoken vocal, is just plain weird – four minutes of an aggressive and abrasive man ranting and shouting does not make for an enjoyable listen.

Having caught his live show at last weekend’s Electric Picnic, it’s undeniable that there is still an awful lot to be celebrated about DJ Shadow as an artist – a mesmerising set, and one of the standouts of the festival. However the disengaged reception towards the new material was obvious, and therein lies the problem – DJ Shadow will forever struggle to top his 1996 masterpiece Entroducing…, when in reality nothing will ever compare, or even come close.

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