Wednesday, 19 March 2003

Album Review: Tical

It seemed likely that Method Man would be the Wu Tang member most likely to find commercial success. Not least because he was the only member to have a track named after him on the group's debut release. There was more than though, his languid drawl made him stand out from the other MCs on 36 Chambers. And so Tical was to be the first solo album to come out of their Shaolin headquarters.

It is Method Man's inherent charisma that initially made him stand out from the rest of the clan; he seemed slightly more charming than his associates. Meth has never been one to take himself totally seriously and on Tical he is as amusing as ever. The title track has Meth squealing, "What's that shit that they be smoking? / pass it over here" in a high pitched voice coming across half rough gangster and half playground bully as he childishly taunts, "Your momma don't wear no drawers / I saw when she took them off" on Biscuits.

When he's not altering his pitch or making juvenile insults, Meth invariably is spitting arrogance or attacking fellow MCs. Release Yo' Delf is an odd track. It's certainly the best example of Meth's bravado, as he declares himself, "as deep as the Poseidon Adventure". The lyrics, however, are slightly at odds with the chosen backing track; an interpolation of Gloria Gaynor's gay party anthem, I Will Survive. The net result should be awful, but somehow it becomes more than the sum of its parts. Method Man fans should check out the Prodigy remix, which gives the track a brutal makeover. Elsewhere, Meth v Chef has Method Man lyrically spar with Raekwon, over a suitably austere beat. It finally is a chance for Meth to up the pace as he tries to keep up with Raekwon.

The commercial breakthrough track on the album is I'll Be There For You; implausibly it samples three songs heavily. It takes Children's Story by Slick Rick, Me & My Bitch by Biggie Smalls and adds it to You're All I Need To Get By by Marvin Gate and Tammi Terrell. Mary J Blige is superb on the backing vocals, and Meth plays the part of the caring suitor to perfection. There is another version of this track earlier on the album, which is far more raw, but fails to find the emotional centre that is on the later version.

The main contrast between this and other early Wu Tang solo LPs is that it sounds more like a collection of radio-accessible singles as opposed to an album. Where Gza and Raekwon set out (with substantial assistance from the Rza) to create very cinematic scenarios with their words and beats, Meth is content to tread through standard rap scenarios. There's certainly nothing wrong with this, and in fact it comes as a decent contrast; but those looking for an intellectual rap album will be disappointed.

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