by: N.E.R.D.

Between the release dates of their third and fourth albums, N.E.R.D. gained and lost a female member and scrapped a large volume of in-progress work. They came up with another album’s worth of material, only to have Interscope ask for a larger portion of upbeat songs. The lead single “Hot-N-Fun,” as well as a few others, could be classified as modern frat rock -- shamelessly mindless, though they’re sonically closer to rubbery pop-funk. The album’s highlights tend not to be full songs but ideas within them -- the drunken horns and drums in “God Bless Us All,” the twinkling keyboard touches in “Perfect Defect,” the taut programming in the Daft Punk-produced “Hypnotize U,” the gorgeously saccharine and Free Design-like back half of “I've Seen the Light/Inside of Clouds.” One exception is the thoroughly transfixing “Life as a Fish,” a lyrically murky ecological rumination cast in pocket-symphony chamber soul. Once again, N.E.R.D. are at their best when they abandon all regard for the Hot 100. ~ Andy Kellman

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