Sunday, November 28, 2010
Album Review: A Brilliant Catastrophe (Beta)
"One year I can save a nation/Now I'm reduced to my orientation/Tell me why did you change your mind," B Slade sings in album opener "Brian's Lament," a somber starting point for the follow-up to A Brilliant Catastophe's alpha version. The album's emotional lyrics spin a loose narrative of isolation, loneliness, determination and spiritual redemption.
The defiant "Rehabilitate" blasts back-stabbers with the lines "I only have 1 hand's worth of homies/Fake niggaz don't get fake digits/They just don't get no fuckin' digits at all." On "Pardon Me" he goes through a laundry list of everyday problems, dismissing those offering empty promises and hold unrealistic expectations. "The bills are piling daily/Obama ain't nobody's messiah/So I can't expect him to save me," he sings, backed by a wall of stacked harmonies and dramatic horns.
"Home" brightens the mood a little, as B Slade reminisces about street football, summer cookouts, playing Nintendo and watching Wrestlemania. The soulful "This Is All Of Me," touches on the singer's perserverance in the face of the controversy that erupted in the gospel community over his homosexuality. "I never thought that I could walk away from everything and everyone I love/But I refuse live a lie for them/So I could fit inside of their mind's glove." "My Fellow Man," with rapper Kaoz playing stereotypical straight man to B Slade's out and proud attitude, is another standout track.
Musically ABC Beta is much more mellow affair than its predecessor. The album's first half consists mostly of smooth balladry or mid-tempo tracks. Sonic surprises like "Them They Them," with its bursts of booming digitized drums, and the cool jazz of "Kick," keep the listener from becoming too comfortable. While there are a handful of uptempo cuts--a remix of "Home," the hilarious funk jam "HAM," the brassy gospel workout "12," and the boom bap hip hop of "Sister Sanctified," a delicious skewering of religious hypocrisy--none of them approach the disco greatness of "Get Over You" or "Mighty Real."
While B Slade's trademark wit and steamy sex talk ("Parking Lot") are on display, they aren't the album's main focus. ABC Beta is more concerned with exorcising demons and looking inward than cutting up on the dancefloor. The tender "Queen" goes into excruciating detail about the singer's mother and her long battle with debilitating illness, while he embues the Diana Ross-sampling "Do You Know" with even more haunting introspection than the original.
The album ends on a triumph note though, the bouncy piano licks, warm grooves, romantic strings and gentle harmonies of "Sunday" and "The River: The Beautiful Place Pt. 3," providing the perfect backdrop as he sings with joyful anticipation for the afterlife. The rafter-raising "Black Sheep" could be seen as a flipside to the rageful anti-bullying anthem "BSFF (Rated R)," speaking to gay youth with empathy and love. ABC Beta does run a little long. A few tracks could've been left off or trimmed down to make the album more cohesive. But overall the album is a welcome addition to B Slade's quickly expanding catalogue.