Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Injury Reserve - Drive It Like It's Stolen Review

Music is never short on stories of unusual rises to fame. In the grand scheme of things, Injury Reserve's is of little note. However, their incrementally-growing prominence in underground Hip-Hop, one capitalized with last year's Floss, is one both peculiar and abnormal. For starters, they're from Arizona. Next up, they're nearing 30 years old. And lastly, their musical style lands them in no discernible group. All of these play a distinct factor in their ascension. Originating from a Hip-Hop dead zone, their inspiration came from all respective corners rather than landlocked into one, equally motivated by De La Soul (East Coast), Outkast (South), Blu (West Coast), and Kanye West (North). Their age and maturity shows, understanding the need for both introspection and evocation. Lastly, their themeless divide splinters their reach, welcoming crowds that are both unruly and untroubled. On Drive It Like It's Stolen, in just 24 modest minutes, Injury Reserve effectively unfurls the scope of their value. Unlike their past two releases, Floss and Live From The Dentist Office, patterns in tone and mood fail to materialize, content with leaping from one springboard to the next. The inconsistency and sweeping irresolution are both Drive It Like It's Stolen's best, and worst, aspect.

Throughout the seven tracks presented here, the discordance of pairings is frustrating, albeit deliberate. After a few listens it's clear 'TenTenths' should've been superseded by 'Colors,' 'Boom X3' fastened to the backend of 'See You Sweat.' However, that's not the case, as Drive It aims to advertise each branch of Injury Reserve's collective knowhow. Excluding the intro and outro, the restless EP darts from house party rendezvous ('See You Sweat'), to nostalgic-burnt slow cruiser ('91 Cadillac DeVille'), to agro-disruptive banger ('Boom X3'), to reclusive meditation ('North Pole'), to a hodgepodge of all ('Colors'). What's effective as a taste test for weary newcomers is negligible for seasoned listeners. You see, each of these tracks, through their own respective dialogue, aims to manifest a corner of Injury Reserve's diverse emotional palate. Problem being, they all dilute the mixture in the process. The conscious childhood reliving of '91 Cadillac DeVille' would've had a greater impact had the watered-down, party-pleasing of 'See You Sweat' not disrupted the daydream. The same could be said for 'Boom X3' and its razing of 'North Pole's' heartfelt remembrance. This undulating approach aspires to be mercurial, but comes off as disingenuous in the process. Musically, there's no momentum.

However, Drive It's just an EP. Criticism in regards to project structure can only go so far. How does the music, on a case-by-case basis, stack up? Like their previous material, it's rather inconsistent. This is frustrating to accept because, on every song here, Injury Reserve's Hip-Hop comprehension and proficiency is self-evident. Even the weak and unnatural 'See You Sweat' is instigated by understanding fan consumption and the necessity for sleazy, radio-friendly material. As has always been the case, Injury Reserve steps out of their element when embracing this side of Hip-Hop, something we also see on 'Boom X3,' a track that's mildly improved by their taste for aggression ('Eeny Meeny Miny Moe,' 'Oh Shit!!!'). The group's successes come from how self-contained they are, excelling most when Stepa J. Groggs, Ritchie With a T, and Parker Corey's personalities show. We see that on lead single standout 'North Pole,' a wintry wonderland composed of a Conscious Hip-Hop/Alternative R&B crossover. We also see that on 'Colors,' if only for the fact that countless Blu references, an odd but sensible rapper to admire, essentially guides the track. There may be some missteps, but Drive It Like It's Stolen acts as a succinct synopsis of Injury Reserve's style.

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