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Album Review: WZRD, 'WZRD'

WZRD album cover

When hip-hop golden child Kid Cudi first announced that he and Dot da Genius were forming an alt-rock album it’s safe to say that no one expected WZRD. Apparently by “alternative rock”, the duo meant angsty, dated, Nickeback-esque post-grunge. While not without its moments, some of WZRD doesn’t even sound like it was made by professional musicians, it feels like something a couple of 15-year olds would put together.

After the overgrown industrial introduction, “The Arrival”, WZRD launch into one of their more obnoxious tracks, “High Off Life”. While trying out his 90s alt-metal voice, Cudi sings about ODing and how sad it would be to die. Like many other WZRD songs, it’s hard to believe that this one wasn’t written by a high school student after first discovering Rage Against The Machine. Another weak track is “Love Hard”, on which Cudi sings about how important it is to love hard (not soft, because then “you’ve already lost”) over an instrumental track that sounds a little too much like Bloc Party. The absolute worst song on the album, though, is “Efflictim”. Over a comically dramatic acoustic guitar, Kid Cudi asks over and over again “how would you feel if you heard the news that I was dead?” The melodrama of the album really reaches a head here, almost making the whole album feel like some elaborate joke.

“Live & Learn” and “Dr. Pill” are a couple of the album’s high points, since they actually sound like what they all should be: alt-rock songs from great hip-hop musicians. WZRD summon (some might say “rip-off”) TV on the Radio for a couple of complex, layered songs that highlight their musical expertise. Even still, both contain some terrible lyrics (like “I’m in my zone and I’m zoning”) and loads of excess fat at the end.

While they were not initially met with much praise, WZRD’s two previously released tracks (“Brake” and “Teleport 2 Me, Jamie”) are also some of the album’s better moments. The former is a mostly instrumental affair, which combines a synthy beat and some industrial backing in a pretty innovative way. Kid Cudi’s grungey vocals are somewhat obnoxious, but they’re mostly lost under the instrumentals. “Teleport 2 Me, Jamie” is a decent song, if only because the song it samples (Desire’s “Under Your Spell”) is so good. Sometimes WZRD actually uses the sample pretty well, adding a heavy guitar track and some harmonics. Mostly, though, it’s just Kid Cudi singing another heavy-handed love song over a relatively unchanged version of Desire’s original. There’s also “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” a cover of Nirvana’s version of folk standard “In the Pines”. This might be the best song on the album, but that says way less about WZRD than it does about Nirvana and the song itself.

While not without its moments, WZRD’s debut full-length is a pretty amateur, unoriginal album overall. Sometimes talented people should stick to what they know, or else they’ll end up with something like this.

WZRD comes out February 28 via Wicked Awesome/HeadBanga Muzik/Universal Republic. Listen to the lead single, "Teleport 2 Me, Jamie", below