New Kingdom

Paradise Don't Come Cheap

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New Kingdom's second album of twisted, slow, and dirty queasy-psychedelia funk-blues hip-hop arguably beats out the fine debut Heavy Load -- there's something even more belligerent, raunchy, and fiery about Furlow and Laws this time out. In light of later years where any number of acts wore their swampy roots heritage with pride, Paradise Don't Come Cheap seems even more prescient, at points suggesting a Goodie Mob/Bubba Sparxx collaboration produced by the RZA -- or, say, Eminem's "Square Dance" completely gone to hell -- well before its time. Indeed -- with a song title like "Kickin' Like Bruce Lee" as a perhaps fortuitous sign -- the Wu-Tang Clan probably could be the only easy comparison to New Kingdom at this point, the duo exhibiting the same confrontational attitude and attack on the verses as the larger collective. There's a less immediately desperate sound, though -- the delivery throughout, as songs like the low-speed brawl of "Terror Mad Visionary" and the absolutely mind-blowing "Co Pilot" and "Suspended in Air" easily show, flows with the beat rather than fights against it. Still, the generous echo on top of the rough-voiced sass of the two often turns particularly claustrophobic and oppressive, especially on the brief singing turns here and there -- the result is often disturbingly threatening, a slow-motion nightmare. The Lumberjacks' production, with the sharp help of folks like Scott Harding on guitar and, on a couple of cuts, the assistance of John Medeski from Medeski, Martin & Wood (his amazing organ performance on "Unicorns Were Horses" is a clear standout), makes for a clattering, woozy flow that more than once suggests what a Tom Waits -- or a Foetus! -- hip-hop album might sound like. Consider the haunted, off-kilter cabaret blues and breaks of "Infested" or the muted but snarling brass section on the title track -- or even the brief "Half Asleep," which touches on everything from James Brown to Arabic music in under a minute.

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