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Public Enemies

Sonically fucked to the point of art-rock
photo: Thomas Simon

The goofball dancehall aggregate Ward 21's first album, Mentally Disturbed, came out a couple of years after its breakthrough singles, and will forever be tainted by association with its imitators—I suppose you could call this the Led Zeppelin syndrome. But Disturbed could lay claim to ragga Nation of Millions status: sonically fucked to the point of art-rock, brilliantly alienating those who would raise asses in the air without expecting a bee sting. Plus it had the only dancehall track to name-check both Kurt Cobain and a dislike of sushi: the later of which is true grunge.

U Know How We Roll doesn't exactly play possum, but with Disturbed shepherd King Jammy's minimal involvement, the album's neurotic refrain of "It pays the bills!" implies a more user-friendly "He Got Game" trumping "Night of the Living Baseheads." At its best, as on "Coochie Zone," Missy Elliot and her handclaps are the template. Or, given Elliot's pickpocket approach, perhaps it's the other way around, since the group has long immersed itself in a stream-of-consciousness similar to her recent Djuna Barnes-isms. With Nyabinghi-ish drumming in two tracks (doubled with harmonica in the self-explanatory "Third Leg"), you can't really fault the album for lacking texture. But they say you're only crazy if you don't know it, and Ward 21 have pulled off a late-period Klinger: giving up on a Section 8, and stripping off the poodle skirts for everyone else's olive drab.


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