PlayLouder at Glastonbury 2003
Electric Circus
Electric Circus

Common is a man unafraid to fuck shit up. From the get go, with the acclaimed 'Can I Borrow A Dollar?, Common has been a funny, quirky, and occasionally brilliant emcee. But it wasn't until MCA debut 'Like Water for Chocolate' that he really started to mess with production ideas, which we can't imagine pleased them too much.

In which case, this record must have fucked them right off. It comes on like a tray of hot oil being carried by a man with one arm considerably longer than the other, if that makes sense... It does beats, it does squelches, it does avante garde, lo-fi, scuzz, post rock, laptop, glitch, and straight-up bangers... it is The Shit, in the same way that Outkast's 'Stankonia' was The Shit.

These are important times for hip-hop - with the genre becoming increasingly reliant on hits, most LPs we hear are straight Murder Inc. rips - and while the odd ace record comes out of commercial hip-hop ('Family Affair', 'Hot In Herre', anything by The Neptunes), it's getting harder to find different flavours - on majors at least.

So let us hope this does a 'Stankonia' commercially. It could. 'Come Close', featuring Mary J Blige, sweats hard enough for the MTV kids, and stinks of class... Then there's 'Soul Power', which bumps unrelentingly, and finds Common coasting the track like a pro... which, of course, he is. But while there's plenty for the unimaginative heads to let seep in, the best shit isn't even really hip-hop... take 'New Wave', featuring Stereolab's Laetitia Sader - Common is blatantly enjoying himself, dropping lines so hard they split your brain on headphones - "How far will a nigga go just for attention?" he spits, before the thing melts down into a thing the title describes perfectly - electro circus shit, both creepy and lush, and pretty damn unnerving.

Elsewhere Common's rock influences make themselves known, most noticeably on the lunatic 'Jimi Was A Rock Star' - which goes on forever, and is utterly fucking wicked - Hendrix samples over rolling drums, slowly building noise that caves your brain and works best when stoned - like much of this record... We could barely listen to 'Electric Wire Hustler Flower' straight, but after half a joint it made more sense than 2 plus 2.

If this record doesn't sell, it will be a complete travesty. This is a brilliant, visionary album and needs rewarding with units - MTV won't have the scoobiest what to do, radio programmers will freak, and hip-hop will, once again, move forward. To infinity - and beyond...

Adam Alphabet

reviewed on 23 Jan 2003

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