Not that Aesop Rock has ever been one to drop rays of sunshine out of his syllable-stuffed mouth, but Bazooka Tooth sees the Brooklyn MC inhabiting a much murkier, dirtier, and more violent world than we last heard on his excellent 2002 EP, Daylight. Blame it on the general spiral of world events and the collective stockpiling of fear, but now he sounds more like a word-hungry zealot trying to make sense of a nonsense world with scattershot rhymes.
Bazooka Tooth (the name Aesop gives to his alter ego, who not unsurprisingly has a bazooka in his mouth) is overflowing with cloudy, hard-edged beats courtesy of Aesop himself, longtime cohort Blockhead, and Def Jux ringleader El-P. Aesop takes the brunt of responsibility, ably working on his producer skills and showing that he has enough skill with dystopian sci-fi shit to rival anything coming out of the Mr. Lif and Cannibal Ox camp. The skittering synth lines, distant thud of bass, and unsteady slo-mo rhythmic edge keep things both paranoid and psychedelic. It's hard to get a handle on your equilibrium at times -- it's easy to get turned around in these alliterative nightmares.
Aesop does throw you more than a few smiles, though. He's not out to make an impenetrable mass of oppressive beats; he wants you to feel the love, as well. "Cook It Up" employs a little flamenco snippet for a bouncy rhythm that can rock the dance floor easily. Of course, it's marked with breakneck verbiage, but in Aesop's world, this is as close as you're going to get to old-school party-rocking.
To get into the seemingly endless array of feverish couplets and lyrical explorations that Aesop comes up with wouldn't do them justice. He sounds like a transmitter picking up several cell-phone calls at once, where everybody seems to be focused on Big Brother, pop culture, disease, and New York. At his worst, he is simply grabbing fistfuls of words out of conversations and throwing them back for you to decipher; at his best (definitely true of Bazooka Tooth), he recycles language and rhythm and creates a sputtering, angry life-force that demands to be heard.
Aesop Rock plays Slim's in SF Friday night with El-P. (415) 255-0333.
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