Anti/Soul Assassins - 2003 - 48 mins
You might not know Muggs' name, but you've definitely heard one of his productions. As the musical mastermind behind Cypress Hill, Muggs defined a particular hip-hop style, his high-energy booming bass and nervous sample stabs providing the perfect backdrop to the squeaky stoned ramblings of front man B-Real.
He is also responsible for House Of Pain's party classic 'Jump Around' and his two solo production projects as the Soul Assassins were brilliantly deft, ranging across all the styles of contemporary rap music, from the minor-key paranoia of the Wu-Tang Clan to Wyclef Jean's soulful karaoke.
The cracks started to show on 'Juxtapose', his collaboration with Tricky. On paper it was a dream team, but the end-product proved disappointedly muddy and opaque. It was easy to imagine the scene at the studio; over-indulgence in mystical herbs and the trans-Atlantic clash of cultures may have had a part to play.
Now comes 'Dust', a much-hyped "rock" project which has garnered universally positive reviews from critics on both sides of the pond.
It appears that Muggs has been delving into his youthful obsessions with electro and indie rock. Both genres cast long, influential shadows over 'Dust'. The result is a tragic attempt at sophistication, a rejection of the street-level savvy Muggs previously brought to his music, in favour of a grating pastiche of European acts like Kid Loco and Massive Attack.
'Dust' is turgid, dense, unhampered by melody and above all, mind-bendingly slow. Melding the worst elements of late 90s trip-hop to fey American indie pop by way of 100th Window, it plays like a check-list of downtempo clichés. The moody female vocals, tuneless acoustic guitars, throbbing "paranoid" soundscapes (we have Massive Attack's 3-D to blame for this wretched trend) and half-assed bleepy electronica are all present and correct. Muggs has obviously had the same rush of blood to the head as the junglists who decided to go "intelligent" (Goldie, I'm looking at you).
'Gone For Good', the only tune that approaches rap music, is dogged by its funereal pace. 'Faded' is probably the stand-out song, but is fatally undermined by an overblown vocal by a Michael Stipe soundalike. 'Chasing Shadows' and 'Niente' are just snippets that should have stayed on the cutting room floor.
The guest vocalists do little to spice up their indifferent backing tracks, and with song titles like 'Tears', 'Dead Flowers' and 'Far Away' it would appear that Muggs has the lyrical style of a depressed teenager.
Although I tried my hardest, I couldn't bring myself to like this dull, pretentious record. Feels like I've been mugged.
Tracklisting: I Know - Rain - Niente - Morta - Faded - Chasing Shadows - Tears - Cloudy Days - Fat City - Believer - Gone for Good - Blip - Dead Flowers - Far Away