Various Artists, ‘…Clones” (Star Trak/Arista) / Spymob, ‘Sitting Around Keeping Score’ (Star Trak/Arista)
Traveling is fun-you make loads of new friends, try all sorts of crazy things you can’t do at home. But the more you do it, the more the trips blur together. After a while, your tour of duty with N.O.R.E. blurs into your drunken spring break with Busta Rhymes.
That’s how The Neptunes & Star Trak Presents…Clones, a label-showcase compilation overseen by Neptunes producers Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, feels: It’s like a vacation slide show in which vivid memories turn hazy. The familiar guests-ODB, Jay-Z, Kelis-sound much as they did on past Neptunes cuts. Of the team’s new signees, only dancehall capo Super Cat brings fresh edge, particularly on the bizarre polka crunker “Don of Dons.” Vanessa Marquez and Fam-Lay, though, succeed by copying tricks they learned from the Clipse: Keep it minimal and move out of the way, while Williams and Hugo drizzle digital honey in the gaps and make instant idols of everyone in the room.
Minneapolis funk-rock outfit Spymob, the first non-urban release on the Neptunes’ imprint, is the sound of the Neptunes coming home. For them, that means Virginia Beach: Steely Dan and skaters, Sly Stone and wood-paneled basements, A Tribe Called Quest and beach bums. In essence, the burbs. How suburban are Spymob? They’ve got not one, but two odes to highways, including “German Test Drive,” the album’s most propulsive track, which displays a passing interest in post-punk. Singer John Ostby muses on the family dog, love in the time of slackerdom, and that most suburban of institutions-divorce (the devastating “National Holidays”). Meanwhile, his band lay downbreezy, spacey, ornately orchestrated soft rock, redolent of late-summer laziness, full of the promise of going somewhere without having to get up and leave.