Music

Doomtree: All Hands

For all the lip-service they pay cooperation, Doomtree's members fight against nobody so much as each other on this dilute offering.


Doomtree

All Hands

Label: Doomtree
US Release Date: 2015-01-27
UK Release Date: 2015-01-27
Amazon
iTunes

What do Doomtree hope to accomplish with All Hands? This isn’t a rhetorical question or an attempt to chide: I’d like, sincerely, to know what it is they were seeking when they began cobbling this album together and how that goal might have changed in the recording process. The Minneapolis rap collective’s never made bones about the fact that their work is ideologically motivate -- their unofficial motto,"No Kings!" makes it rather clear what they think of authority figures -- and that clarity’s always been a strength, so it’s something of a mystery that All Hands came out such a confused mess. Even the title, evocative at a glance, breaks down under a bit of scrutiny. "All hands on deck!" is an emergency call, a response to a threat so great it requires everyone on the ship to handle, but what threat was so pressing that it required every member of Doomtree to collaborate on this clutter?

Whatever it is, it’s got the group riled up and everyone’s eager to do something about it, with P.O.S. on the verge of going vigilante. There are more than a few references to Bernard Goetz and Charles Bronson, a comparison he's been making since his second solo album. Sims, who’s quicker to identify with Travis Bickle, is set to join him. But the targets they call out are maddeningly vague. There’s much noise made of "campaigns, big banks," police brutality, "class-wars," and "outmoded ideas about now," but it's not given any kind of presence. Very little is ever made concrete. The most solid references made are rattled off verses dense with pop-culture allusions that are more glib than clever. Sims’ boast that he’s "like David Lynch,", Mike Mictlan’s off-hand mention of warp-whistles and Second Life, and P.O.S.’s decision to compare himself to Vint Cerf (and, in the same verse, John Candy) all sound like part of a clumsily constructed code intended less to convey a message to other would-be revolutionaries than to alienate anyone so uncool as to be left outside of the Doomtree circle.

The resulting fusion of disdain, self-congratulations (the group's self-appointed title of "Generation Generators" may be the most obnoxious example of this imaginable; little coincidence that "Generator," which opens on those words, is the most obnoxious song on the album), sanctimony and abstraction often makes it difficult to listen to the music. The melancholy bounce of ".38 Airweight" and the lo-fi bleeps that pepper it serve as the perfect backdrop for P.O.S's ability to whip from fury to defeat and contrast well with Mictlan's bark, but are too much at conflict with the actual lyrics. If the spacey synthetics of "Mini-Brute" mesh perfectly with Dessa and P.O.S.'s open vocals during the chorus they then sound too airy during the crunchy verses. Even the most catching song, "Marathon", would be better served if it stopped before the second half, where it squanders the tension established by the wire-taut edge of the first three verses.

This obsessive attempt to cram as many members of the Doomtree collective into every song might stem from a communal impulse but it only seems to spark conflict. Each member suddenly has to work triple to distinguish themselves from the other members, which results in each rapper trying to outperform every other rapper. Who can throw in the most obscure references? Who can sound the most furious? Who can pull off the wildest linguistic tricks? The result is an album that's simply too confused to provide the kind of example Doomtree hopes it will and too taxing to properly enjoy. It works best as a reminder that these are some of the best solo talents working in hip-hop today.

5


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

Zadie Smith's 'Intimations' Essays Pandemic With Erudite Wit and Compassion

Zadie Smith's Intimations is an essay collection of gleaming, wry, and crisp prose that wears its erudition lightly but takes flight on both everyday and lofty matters.

Music

Phil Elverum Sings His Memoir on 'Microphones in 2020'

On his first studio album under the Microphones moniker since 2003, Phil Elverum shows he has been recording the same song since he was a teenager in the mid-1990s. Microphones in 2020 might be his apex as a songwriter.

Music

Washed Out's 'Purple Noon' Supplies Reassurance and Comfort

Washed Out's Purple Noon makes an argument against cynicism simply by existing and sounding as good as it does.

Music

'Eight Gates' Is Jason Molina's Stark, Haunting, Posthumous Artistic Statement

The ten songs on Eight Gates from the late Jason Molina are fascinating, despite – or perhaps because of – their raw, unfinished feel.

Film

Apocalypse '45 Uses Gloriously Restored Footage to Reveal the Ugliest Side of Our Nature

Erik Nelson's gorgeously restored Pacific War color footage in Apocalypse '45 makes a dramatic backdrop for his revealing interviews with veterans who survived the brutality of "a war without mercy".

Music

12 Brilliant Recent Jazz Albums That Shouldn't Be Missed

There is so much wonderful creative music these days that even an apartment-bound critic misses too much of it. Here is jazz from the last 18 months that shouldn't be missed.

Music

Blues Legend Bobby Rush Reinvigorates the Classic "Dust My Broom" (premiere)

Still going strong at 86, blues legend Bobby Rush presents "Dust My Broom" from an upcoming salute to Mississippi blues history, Rawer Than Raw, rendered in his inimitable style.

Music

Folk Rock's the Brevet Give a Glimmer of Hope With "Blue Coast" (premiere)

Dreamy bits of sunshine find their way through the clouds of dreams dashed and lives on the brink of despair on "Blue Coast" from soulful rockers the Brevet.

Music

Michael McArthur's "How to Fall in Love" Isn't a Roadmap (premiere)

In tune with classic 1970s folk, Michael McArthur weaves a spellbinding tale of personal growth and hope for the future with "How to Fall in Love".

Film

Greta Gerwig's Adaptation of Loneliness in Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women'

Greta Gerwig's film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women strays from the dominating theme of existential loneliness.

Music

The Band's Discontented Third LP, 1970's 'Stage Fright', Represented a World Braving Calamity

Released 50 years ago this month, the Band's Stage Fright remains a marker of cultural unrest not yet remedied.

Music

Natalie Schlabs Starts Living the Lifetime Dream With "That Early Love" (premiere + interview)

Unleashing the power of love with a new single and music video premiere, Natalie Schlabs is hoping to spread the word while letting her striking voice be heard ahead of Don't Look Too Close, the full-length album she will release in October.

Music

Rufus Wainwright Makes a Welcome Return to Pop with 'Unfollow the Rules'

Rufus Wainwright has done Judy Garland, Shakespeare, and opera, so now it's time for Rufus to rediscover Rufus on Unfollow the Rules.

Music

Jazz's Denny Zeitlin and Trio Get Adventurous on 'Live at Mezzrow'

West Coast pianist Denny Zeitlin creates a classic and adventurous live set with his long-standing trio featuring Buster Williams and Matt Wilson on Live at Mezzrow.

Film

The Inescapable Violence in Netflix's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui)

Fernando Frías de la Parra's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) is part of a growing body of Latin American social realist films that show how creativity can serve a means of survival in tough circumstances.

Music

Arlo McKinley's Confessional Country/Folk Is Superb on 'Die Midwestern'

Country/folk singer-songwriter Arlo McKinley's debut Die Midwestern marries painful honesty with solid melodies and strong arrangements.

Music

Viserra Combine Guitar Heroics and Female Vocals on 'Siren Star'

If you ever thought 2000s hard rock needed more guitar leads and solos, Viserra have you covered with Siren Star.

Music

Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts Honor Their Favorite Songs With "Oh No" (premiere)

Ryan Hamilton's "Oh No" features guest vocals from Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, and appears on Nowhere to Go But Everywhere out 18 September.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.