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Injury Reserve-By the Time I Get to Phoenix ALBUM REVIEW


Written Before Listen


Injury Reserve is one of the most known names of modern experimental hip hop, Known for there eccentric production and unique lyricism. With my knowledge of them, I’ve only listened to a couple of their songs, but what I’ve heard from them is great. Especially songs like “Oh Shit!!!” And “Wax On”. When I heard about the unexpected passing of Groggs, I decided to listen to one of their projects “Floss”. I loved it but never returned to it for some reason. After the death of Groggs, they just released this new album that was finished when Groggs died. With that being said, this might be their goodbye album. Let’s see how it is.


Production


Well….first off, this is far from what I expected. All of the production on here is extremely dense and hypnotic. Right from the opening 70s esc instrumental to the Brian Eno sampled outro, every instrumental is like a tornado. With tracks like “SS In San Francisco” and “Smoke Don’t Clear”, Injury Reserve sounds more like Tom Waits than a hip hop producer. All thanks to Parker Corey. Parker gives a wide variety of influences with all of his beats. There is no beat with a straightforward groove. On tracks like “Superman That”, “Footwork In a Forest Fire” and “Wild Wild West”, Parker creates these beats that are insanely glitchy and manipulated that the instrumental alone could be a perfect track. They also sample a lot of different artists from underground music from all eras. They sample the likes of classic acts like Brian Eno, The Fall, and King Crimson but also sample newer acts like Black Country New Road and black midi. I will say that the production took me some time to appreciate, but the more and more I listen to it, the more and more they grow on me. After some quality listens, I will say that I love these instrumentals. Every single one has so much density and left-field ness to it that is so easy to desire.


Genre-Bending


Uhhh….where do I start? No track is one singular genre or even an identifiable genre. With the first two tracks, we have a blend of experimental hip hop and electronic music but each track differentiates from the other. The last two tracks are more rock-oriented as the guitar-based instrumental and more melodic approach to their sound could be compared to artists like Can and King Crimson. There’s more than that though. There are so many stylistic shifts, blends, and twists in the span of these 41 minutes. The Post-Punk on “SS San Francisco”, the industrial influence on “Footwork In A Forest Fire” and the R&B influence on “PostPostpartum”. It’s all done well too. I think nearly every song works like a 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle.


Influences


With a record that’s as left field and avant-garde as this album is, the listener is desperate to find people that they can connect to. The first influence that came to mind was Tom Waits. With songs like “SS In San Francisco” and “Smoke Don’t Clear”, the clanky percussion and lo-fidelity vocal mixing just bleed Tom Waits. On the hip hop aspect, surely JPEGMAFIA and Slauson Malone are easy footnotes but Kanye West has a little flare in this album too. I think there is one particular album that this album reminds me of and that is the 1971 album Tago Mago by Krautrock legends Can. Nearly every single track in left field and Avant grade but there is slight accessibility to some tracks, and when there is, the songs still take a lot of nods to experimental and avant-garde music.


Lyrics


It’s to the point where the lyrics are just an automatic second thought with an album this left field. A lot of the lyrics seem to be somewhat influenced by the death of Groggs but there are also the themes of anxiety, depression, alienation, paranoia, and more. With the two promotional singles, we saw what this album would be about. “Superman That” could be about being unable to escape the feeling of being attacked while “Knees” is about dealing with more problems growing up and having to deal with them. Tracks like “Outside”, “SS In San Francisco” are about being one’s self while “Wild Wild West” is a straight ode to the internet. I will say that this album might not be the most lyrically skilled hip-hop album, but its depth and delivery give the whole song a new layer.


Cons


Ummm….I mean…I guess that you wouldn’t be able to bump this with your friends but that’s not a big deal whatsoever. At first, listen, there were some weaknesses I had like the album’s over-the-top ambition but I knew right from the start that this is an album that will grow on you gradually. After my fair share of listens, the album is fantastic. This album is an experience. Injury Reserve changes the boundaries of how avant-garde hip hop can be without being super in your face about it. Honestly, I have never heard anything like this.

Verdict


Oh….my god. Every time I listen to this I feel inspired. It makes you think as well as makes you focus. I also love how in a couple of weeks, we have gotten two hip hop albums that will carry the future of hip hop. I was honestly trying to push back this score because like cmon…I gave a 10 a couple of weeks ago….but I guess we are here again.


10/10



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