2008 release release from the Hip Hopsters. Seeing Sounds, their third album, is a blistering mash-up of booming Hip Hop beats and rollercoastering Rock riffs, rumbling Crunk rhythms and scintillating Soul music. Whereas their first album, In Search Of... was an imaginative, exploration of identities, and their second album, Fly Or Die, sought out the range of genres and sounds that have influenced the group, Seeing Sounds grinds everything together, evoking a sound that is un-tethered by preconceptions and convention. It is also an album that amplifies the style and attitudes that have made Pharrell, Chad and Shae transcendent cultural icons.
The title of N.E.R.D's third album, Seeing Sounds
, was inspired by a TV show the ban watched about synaesthesia--the neurological disorder that causes people to experience sounds as colours or objects in their minds. The concept inspired the trio (Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo, a.k.a. The Neptunes, and their rapping pal Shay Haley) to create a record as if it were a live show, as if the listener were really able to see the band playing. As ideas go, it's a dubious one, but it does give the band the opportunity to dive back into their musical ocean and splash noisily around, leaving listeners soaked and astounded. With the usual disregard for genre, Seeing Sounds
opens with bass-heavy low-rider "Time For Some Action", before heading off on an intense roller-coaster ride that takes in the choppy, digi-drum & bass of "Spaz" and the infectious booty-bass of single "Everyone Nose" (a look at Hollywood's cocaine obsession) via a veritable kaleidoscope of colourful sound. "Sooner or Later" is all smooth Motown soul, "Kill Joy" is riff-heavy rock and "Anti Matter" has an Atari crunk feel. This breathless diversity is, of course, what N.E.R.D. are best at, and the good news is that Seeing Sounds
can be considered a return to form after the nadir of Fly Or Die
; though Whether it stands up to their debut or whether their new experiments ever get beyond the superficial, is another matter entirely. -- Paul Sullivan