N.E.R.D.

After another two years of radio domination and pop-culture omnipresence by Neptunes Inc., Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo (and their curiously fair-weather rapper friend Shay) have returned to the skate park of your mind with Fly or Die, the second offering from their generally rock-oriented side project N.E.R.D. Like In Search Of... , the act's 2002 debut, the disc basically plays like a catch-all for the ideas the Neptunes couldn't convince Britneykelisnellybeyoncéludacrisjay-z to use in songs on their records: crosstown-traffic guitar fuzz and Mike Patton vocal gymnastics in "Backseat Love," anti-war Todd Rundgren pop in "Drill Sergeant," weed-brownie pet sounds in "Wonderful Place" and, perhaps best of all, explicit use of the name Mildred in "Chariot of Fire." The range of sounds and styles makes for a dizzying listen, but unlike N.E.R.D.'s debut, the CD's also kind of a mess, a collection of concepts and half-concepts only given the record-label go-ahead because Pharrell wrote every song Tracy Byrd didn't sing last year. Still, it's nice to hear this kind of large-scale experimentation at a time when record labels are green-lighting messes that don't have the courage to admit, "Her ass is a spaceship I want to ride." Give 'em a hand for consuming so conspicuously.
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Mikael Wood