What do Everclear, Soul Coughing & The Black Eyed Peas have in common?
The answer is really nothing, but they all shared the same stage as part of the 1999 Sno Core Tour.
I remember being at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, watching Soul Coughing perform "Super Bon Bon" & "Circles", while Everclear was still basking in the glory of songs like "Santa Monica", "Herion Girl" & "Father of Mine".
The band that really struck me that night was The Black Eyed Peas. It was their brand of hip-hop coupled with a full live band that really struck a chord with me. I remember buying their debut album Behind The Front after the show and really digging it.
When you read the liner notes of Behind The Front the list of instruments includes a Hammond B3 Organ, Moog, Theramin, marimbas, guitar, bass and Fender Rhodes among others. At first glance you might think that you were reading the liner notes to a more traditional rock band and not a hip-hop album.
Behind The Front is a great record and with that, The Black Eyed Peas had a solid foundation for success. Songs like "Fallin' Up" and "Joints & Jam" affirm that the group has immense talent. The album touches on everything from jazz to funk while maintaining a hip-hop feel.
There is an old saying " If it's not broken don't fix it". The Black Eyed Peas must have felt that there was something wrong.
Let's fast forward ten years. The Black Eyed Peas are one of the most popular groups and have had a slew of radio smash hits. There is no doubt that they can write a really catchy hook that appeals to the masses. I was originally going to buy their new album The E.N.D. (The Energy Never Dies) to write this piece. I wanted to compare their debut album to their latest effort. Instead, I went to the iTunes store and listened to the 30 second clips of each of the songs to get a general feel for the album. It's a good thing I didn't buy the album.
It is amazing to hear the difference ten years and a whole bunch of computer manipulation can have. The most striking aspect of the album are the lyrics. Not only are the lyrics bad, but it seems that they just put some words together that rhyme and repeat them over and over. This is a stark contrast to the lyrics on Behind The Front.
There is no real semblance of a live band as computer beats have replaced actual drum beats. I am not saying that this makes for a terrible record, but I wonder what this album would sound like with a live band? It is a shame that a group could actually devolve as much as The Black Eyed Peas have.