Alex Staat a.k.a. PaLindrome’s third album “Carol Urban” is a refreshing reminder of what excellent hip-hop sounds like from the recent Gonzaga grad. Released on Feb. 7, 2012 “Carol Urban”delivers a strong and agile performance, balancing PaLindrome’s signature ruggedness with the smooth natural rap style of Merk, his partner in crime. Ryan Staats a.k.a. Meat the Stereo Killer (and PaL’s older brother) rounds out the trio with beats that eclectically blend 80s alternative rock with hip-hop and electronica.
The bad before the good: I immediately noticed this album has only nine songs plus a bonus song, the bare minimum for a full-length album. Also, the Aesop Rock-like lyrics on “Carol Urban” seemed more ambiguous and cryptic than PaLindrome’s previous work. There is obviously a narrative running through these songs, but the stories can get convoluted in wandering metaphors. I am still trying to figure out if the song “White House” has any tangible meaning beyond the word play.
However, the excellent beats and high caliber rapping easily overcome these hurdles. Consistent with his first two albums “Evil Oliver” (2006) and “The KnumbskuLL TrebLe” (2009), PaLindrome skillfully weaves his flow into a high pace self-reflection full of gritty imagery. “Stuck in a room, walls closin’ in, consumin, assumin’ a human hunt for good will’s brewin’,”he growls in “Ghetto Hair. Deceptive women, drinking, misfortunes, insights, paranoia, struggles, and victories are a few other themes that drive this album. “What’s the answer Alexander? Choppin trees, stumped for solutions. A trampoline dream movement where I jump to conclusions,” begins PaL’s quandary on “Elephant Man.” He leverages life’s trials into quality music with the unique voice of an authentic hip-hop artist.
Another aspect of “Carol Urban”I enjoy is the back-and-forth chorus’ between PaLindrome and Merk similar to Black Star and the Beastie Boys. Redolent of PaLindrome’s earlier work with the rap group The Morgue, they go back and forth rapping,“Run it back!” “Run it back!” “I hate how I aaaact, but she’s lovin’ that,” “lovin’ that,” “animated Hoooooo!” “Thundarcat!” This style works especially well with the complimentary timbres of the two rappers’ voices.
Meat the Stereo Killer displays his craftby balancing multiple genres into an undeniable groove. On “C.U. Next Thursday”, he blends Ratatat’s Tropicana with smoky female vocals by Laila, the result being surprisingly addictive. Other tracks showcase Meat’s ability to mix throwback classic rock tracks with underground hip-hop beats. “Newsflash” and “Transmission” both share this classic rock funk/ electronic hip-hop style evocative of The Roots. Meat even manages to wander into full-on electronic territory on “Ghetto Hair”, a high-pace rap about getting drunk and causing mayhem.
Meat’s beats kick ass and PaLindrome’s raps will keep me listening; every time I catch clever word plays that I hadn’t noticed before. Ultimately, PaLindrome’s 3rd album “Carol Urban” delivers.
By Zack Cleary