Mel Gibson and the Pants
Totally Gross National Product
Contrary to the simplicity of its title, the second release from this local sextet is no more a hip-hop album with guitar than Gandhi was some guy with glasses. Mel Gibson and the Pants are actually more of a drum 'n' bass/hip-hop collaboration, which makes the noted use of guitar just another outlet for clouding convention. The first one jumping in to muddy the pond is MC Harold Sanders, who spits rubbery syllables like a less buoyant Andre 3000. The album features guest vocals from P.O.S., Cecil Otter, and Sims, but Sanders's are doubled and redoubled, chopped, sputtered, and spun for maximum dizziness. It's not a new idea for hip hop, but MG eliminate the queasy, back-and-forth burble that comes with manual turntable scratching. This is the clean, no-nonsense cut-and-paste job of a computer.
Occasionally it seems like the group loses control over its experiments. "Papacy, Schmapacy" is a mess, with so much structural confusion that each new change of direction is less satisfying than the last. Hushed croaks of "Don't take me out" sound less like a lyric and more like a plea to the producer. Eventually the track reaches a clearing with the introduction of Eyedea's nasal rhymes, and builds to a guitar plateau as if that's what we've been waiting for the whole time. On the other hand, great songs like "Reagan's Dead" clean things up without losing the collage feel. Here, the screams of Chariots' Travis Bos are shoehorned into split-second pauses. (Bos's hastily clipped lungbusters pop up again a few songs later, disqualifying him for the title of Briefest Cameo Appearance Ever.)
So what about those eponymous guitars? Well, they stay in the background and sound like samples of pretty much every college rock band in the country. On "Tubes Tide," the album's only instrumental track, logy guitars meet wistful banjo and twinkling keyboards. It sounds just like Broken Social Scene, except MG's track is more concise, more playful, and generally less Canadian. At just under an hour, w/Guitar offers up more squelchy electronics and spacecraft-landing sounds than the average hip-hop album needs, but just the right amount for the average hip-hop/drum 'n' bass/indie rock/electronic album.