N.E.R.D.

Seeing Sounds (Star Trak/Interscope)

N.E.R.D.'s third album is the compact-disc equivalent of an ad campaign trying to appeal to the Red Bull/BlackBerry generation. "We gotta make it passionate," you can almost hear Pharrell telling the guys in the studio. "And retro! And political! You know, some really fucked-up crazy awesome nuts shit!" And so we get a song to bash Bush by ("Time for Some Action"), a track to snort coke off supermodels by ("Everybody Nose") and a "thoughtful" Beatles-esque ballad ("Sooner or Later") to impress the left-wing Victoria's Secret babe on the ride home. The group's moniker has never been more appropriate: Seeing Sounds is all technique, no soul. Every sampler-tweaked and computer-manipulated moment feels micro-managed. Turns out human emotion cannot be created with Pro Tools.

 
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