Theophilus London

Timez Are Weird These Days

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One of the mixtapes from this Brooklyn MC/singer, I Want You, featured a title track that took almost as many liberties with Marvin Gaye as a Hennessy ad campaign. Here, with his debut for Reprise, Theophilus London playfully swipes imagery from the man who wrote “I Want You,” Leon Ware; the cover of Timez Are Weird These Days mirrors that of Ware’s self-titled album from 1982, just as his other releases referenced older album covers. It indicates that Timez might not be that much different from those releases, rather than the crossover-aiming overhaul one might expect from major-label involvement. Sure enough, Timez is no shake-up, rooted in impish party-soundtrack material with the durability and lasting value of a red plastic cup. While this is the most concentrated and focused London release, boasting a relatively tight set of productions from John Hill (Santigold, Amanda Blank), Jocko (Robyn), Foreign Born's Ariel Rechtshaid (We Are Scientists), and TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek, most of the tracks have the same fleeting effect provided by the mixtape material. On the surface, the album is pleasurable, largely upbeat, and bouncy -- a rock-rap hybrid inspired by the pop appeal of new wave, occasionally sweetened with flashes of early-‘80s funk. However, London's sluggish flow and hollow songwriting shows through with increased exposure, most evident in “Girls Girls $,” one of the album’s emphasis tracks. It’s as sturdily constructed as an unfinished N.E.R.D. outtake, rudimentary if overstuffed electro-rock with “She got drunk, showed her p*ssy on World Star” recited a mind-numbing 15 times -- 16 if you count the random robot. London is far more charming when he's given some space and sings, as he does very sweetly in the chorus of "Why Even Try," featuring Tegan & Sara's Sara Quin. Those moments are scant.

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