Handsome Boy Modeling School: White People
You know Handsome Boy Modeling School are in trouble when the second-longest track on their album is Guido Sarducci complaining about socks. The duo--featuring Prince Paul, Dan "The Automator" Nakamura, and phony mustaches--were fun in '99, when their album So... How's Your Girl? combined high fashion and low concept into backpacker pimp jams. But the Boys aren't so sure-fire anymore. The fun on Paul's Politics of the Business began and ended with Dave Chappelle, and the disco-bawl of Automator side project Head Automatica sounded like Playskool DFA. Sadly, White People doesn't re-inspire their creativity. Not with all the--cough, cough--"eclectic" guests in the way, taking up space until the album resembles some sort of CMJ-sponsored game of Russian roulette gone the way of Judgement Night.
Some of the guests are already at home here; De La Soul are always welcome within arm's reach of Prince Paul, especially on a cut as genially grateful as "If It Wasn't for You." And Paul's Gravediggaz partner the RZA spits vicious on "A Day in the Life"--a couple of tracks after a skit-bound RZA imitator promises to give a Dating Game contestant a ride in the Wu-mobile ("sponsored by Kwysler"). But not everyone hits it off with their host. Legendary DJs Grand Wizard Theodore and Jazzy Jay mumble history lessons; Lord Finesse reminds people that Fatboy Slim sampled him once; and Linkin Park whine both figuratively ("Seems like there's too much 'Pac, we don't need it") and literally ("nothing I can say or do can take away the eannneeeeiiiiienoohhh") on "Rock And Roll (Could Never Hip Hop Like This) Part 2." "The World's Gone Mad" features three likeable vocalists from three disparate genres who show three different ways to not care, from Del the Funky Homosapien sticking Gorrillaz' "Clint Eastwood" flow back in its cage, to Franz Ferdinander Alex Kapranos mumbling half-asleep from the next room, to Barrington Levy not even bothering to get the title right. (At least he sings "The world's gone bad" with the same reggae smoothness with which he purred through "Shine Eye Girl" 25 years ago.)
It doesn't help that most of the record asphyxiates under a grey curtain of beats that are less luxurious than lugubrious, down-tuned to sleepwalking mope-tempo in order to accommodate the guitar kids. As for that title: Seattle Weekly music editor Michaelangelo Matos joked that they named the record after their audience. But he's wrong--if that were the case, this record would be eponymous.
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