Five identity crisis songs: Danny Brown, Garbage, & more

This week's edition of 5ingles spotlights songs by artists who seem to be undergoing an identity crisis -- musicians who aren't quite themselves, who apparently woke up a bit off of their game. So these five tunes sound sort of like what you've come to expect from their creators, but not quite, which is somehow more disappointing than a wholesale fail while navigating their usual lanes.

5. Garbage, "Blood for Poppies"

So it's a relief that the guitars are there, okay? My problem is that there aren't quite enough of them to balance out the serpentine structure of the song or Shirley Manson's AK47-esque not-quite-rap verses or the lame vocal melody overall. I don't care what anyone says: "Poppies" is not a viable lead Garbage single on any level.

4. ZEBU!, "Trapped in Eternity"

Piano-recital faux tenderness is the last thing anyone would expect from this Massachusetts duo, whose default setting is rollicking thicket rock with a bucket full of screws loose. Yet here they are, pork-pie hats in hand, idly toying with your heartstrings the way Eddie Vedder fucks around with ukuleles.

3. Danny Brown, "Grown Up"

Is the world ready for "radio edited" Danny Brown? I don't know if it is, really, and yet there he is, keeping everything PG-13 without playing it especially clever. There's no real payoff here, other than feeling psyched for Brown because you know Scion or a Scion subsidiary probably cut this Detroit rapper a fat check to neuter his rhymes, which matters, because it's not like the guy has a record deal or steady income stream.

Still, though, even when Eminem sold out -- I'm thinking "Lose Yourself" -- he at least found a way to sell out with some balls. Right now, most people who care about Danny Brown are just hoping that "Grown Up" is an aberration, a hiccup, an outlier en route to truckloads more raunchy, "anti-clean rap."

2. Lightning Bolt, "I Found A Ring In My Ear"

Wherein Brian Chippendale and Brian Gibson decide -- with good reason -- that epic 20-minute climbs to Taj Mahal-height peaks trump blinkered five-minute rumpuses. "Ear" stretches on forever and a day in a good way, building a cracked, wayward head of steam before unveiling its uber-gnarly improvisational gifts.

1. Plies, "We Are Trayvon"

It's pretty much impossible to take Plies seriously. The Florida-based rapper is the very definition of a hip-hop also-ran, a joke-a-minute court jester type who's more comedian than spitter and whose forte seems to be minting slang idioms unlikely to be used beyond his immediate circle of friends and family. All of which is to say that Plies is not really the dude you look to for sincere, heartfelt tributes to Trayvon Martin. And yet here we are, staring down "We Are Trayvon" and struggling to stomach Plies as socially conscious political voice.

I've no truck with the lyrics -- in fact I happily co-sign -- but I'm not buying that Plies cares enough about this fracas beyond an opportunity to flip a racially charged tragedy into a) an immediate revenue stream or b) a jump-start to his moribund career, in large part because mournful Plies sounds exactly like trifling Plies -- a sure sign that he's still not ready for the big leagues he'd kill to ascend to.

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