Melancholic grooves, rage, and some tight guest verses...yes, DJ Shadow has returned people, and he's sick of your shit.
'Our Pathetic Age' marks his sixth full-length following on from 2016’s 'The Mountain Will Fall’, and boy it's a big beast. With 23 tracks plus three bonus numbers, the album amounts to an hour and a half of music, split between an instrumental side and another filled with some of the game's biggest figures.
With a title like this, it'll be no surprise that Shadow, like everyone, is pretty fed up with the state of things. 'Nature Always Wins’ opens this mammoth selection with a gnarly drone, effectively cementing the tone of things to come. Fans of John Carpenter will get behind the spooky glitch of ‘Intersectionality’ while 'Entroducing...' acolytes will get a kick out of 'If I Died Today' and 'We Are Always Alone’.
At times the first half is mean, burly, and not afraid to show how pissed off it is. No better is this seen than on the bruising 'Juggernaut,' five and a half minutes of apocalyptic noise that won't be ignored. It's a ballsy way to divide an album, but in this age of streaming the curious can pick, choose and save what they want from this sombre opening chapter.
Come track twelve and the things begin to bounce with the Nas featuring 'Drone Warfare.' Sharing some DNA with their impressive 2017 collab 'Systematic,' this politicised banger acts as a more ominous twin, boosted by Pharoahe Monch's inclusion. The previously released 'Rocket Fuel' helps lighten things up, proving that De La Soul are the undisputed kings of guest appearances. It's perfect single fodder and an appreciated funky reprieve amongst all the heavier moments.
Similarly, Run The Jewels follow up the phenomenal ‘Nobody Speak’ with the soulful ‘Kings & Queens,’ it’s an uplifting standout that wouldn’t be amiss on a latter-day Kanye release. The prize for real album highlight, however, must go to 'Dark Side Of The Heart' feat. Fantastic Negrito and Jumbo is Dr.ama. Here Shadow masterfully weaves his nocturnal magic over a sensitive tale of heartache that's positively dripping with vintage groove.
It must be said that 'Our Pathetic Age' is not the most cohesive of efforts, a criticism that's been aimed his way ever since his debut. The dual nature of the album feels more akin to two separate releases than one package, despite similar themes being shared. Still, with over 25 years in the industry, Shadow’s ability to weave head-bopping darkness remains undiminished.
Perhaps not one for the casual fan, but there’s plenty to unpack for the long-time admirer.
Words: Sam Walker-Smart
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