The Roundtable returns to review the new album from Flying Lotus -- You're Dead!Warp, 2014
7.7 / 10
Welcome to another Earbuddy Roundtable Review. To explain, Earbuddy assembles three or more writers to discuss a new album with each writer giving his/her thoughts on the release and their own personal score. Then an average score is determined for the album overall. For our latest Roundtable, Earbuddy writers John Downey, Alex Daniel, and Nick Krenn will be reviewing Flying Lotus’ new album You’re Dead!
Flying Lotus said the following about his new album when explaining its concept: “The album isn’t about the end, it’s really the beginning. It’s a celebration of the next experience. It’s the transition and the confusion. It’s not ‘hey you’re dead.’ It’s ‘hey you’re dead!” What this meant for FlyLo was an album marked by some of the most compelling jazz freakouts of the year. Originally intended as being a jazz record with traditional instruments transformed into another unique FlyLo experience. Helping him bring the album to life are guest musicians: Herbie Hancock, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Angel Deradoorian, Thundercat, Niki Randa, and FlyLo assuming his Captain Murphy persona. This sounds like a journey most listeners would be willing to take, but is FlyLo’s afterlife one where you’d want to spend your eternity?
Me: “This album drags
Near the end. Why is that? Fuck.”
Metaphor for life.
John’s Score: 8.0
Alex’s Score: 7.5
After 2012’s stunning Until The Quiet Comes, I was highly anticipating Flying Lotus’ next work. Almost sticking with the titular theme of Until The Quiet Comes, You’re Dead! focuses on a concept where silence could be the outcome…or maybe there is a spiritual/metaphysical life after death. It’s a perfect idea for the producer/rapper to expand new sonic territory and drop something that boggles the mind almost as much as its subject matter. The album’s beautifully illustrated cover art hints to as much — a bit reminiscent of progressive rock band Tool’s Lateralus (Tool have always had a fascination with metaphysical existence) — and works almost as a painting of an acid trip or a journey into a dimension we can’t comprehend. For most of its first half, You’re Dead!, lives up to its promise.
A chilling blast of noise opens the new album with bell tones heard ringing about, as if the soul is ascending or maybe descending into this new realm. Then the deafening noise gives way to more playful production from Flying Lotus until it progresses into a jazzy freakfest with angelic harmonies – think nude cherubs flying by your head as you’re trying to take in all of the surroundings. It’s simply beautiful and immediately entrancing, and yet I can’t help but feel that I’ve stumbled into some multidimensional nightclub filled with smoke as a jazz band is coming unglued on stage. The playing is fast and fierce — rat-a-tat percussion, blistering guitar chords, and jazz piano until a funkier progression takes place where saxophone bursts through like a beam of light.
This all serves as a grand entrance for Kendrick Lamar, who absolutely kills on the track “Never Catch Me”. His flow feels perfectly suited with FlyLo’s production; Lamar stays intact, never missing a beat, even when having to go deep in his lyrics that deal with death and spirituality. At first I wasn’t a fan, but upon later listens, I’m enjoying this collaboration more than any other on You’re Dead! I mean, I understand that Snoop Dogg might be considered rap royalty in some circles, but his brief cameo on “Dead Man’s Tetris” almost took me out completely. He’s like the Morgan Freeman of rap music, just showing up to be Snoop Dogg without really adding anything to the narrative of the project. Still, Snoop’s appearance is on the better half of You’re Dead!
Around the middle of the album, it loses its schizophrenic pace, coming to a crawl but no less moody with jazz spurts here and there but now softened by their less chaotic backdrop. Either that or I had become tired at this point. This leads into some of the album’s weirder territory like “Descent Into Madness” featuring Thundercat and one of two instances where FlyLo assumes his Captain Murphy persona on “The Boys Who Died In Their Sleep”. I don’t know; they just bring the brilliance of the previous album to a dramatic halt, and You’re Dead! never seems to recover, almost sputtering to its close rather than finishing off in a grand, climatic style. Is this also a statement about death — the journey into the afterlife being more exciting than the final destination? Not sure, but after all complexity introduced early in the album, I was hoping for much more.
Nick’s Score: 7.6