Common

Universal Mind Control

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    5
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AllMusic Review by

The eighth Common album was originally titled "Invincible Summer," but delays slid its release back to December. Though Mortal Winter might've been more apt, Universal Mind Control does correctly point toward a lighter, less cerebral set relative to the MC's discography from The Resurrection onward. The glinting "Change" is a track filled with hope and optimism about younger generations and the rise of Obama, and "Inhale," another standout, carries a surplus of uplift and urgency. Otherwise, Common's here to have a good time, no strings attached, with uneven results. Occasionally adopting a casual old-school flow, best heard on the neo-Bambaataa electro throwback title track, he spends most of his time boasting about his prowess, whether he's referring to being on the mike or in the bedroom. At the album's lowest, he sounds uncomfortably out of character, as on "Announcement"; its stern beat, one of the seven provided by the Neptunes, resembles a Clipse cast-off, pushing Common into ill-suited thuggishness. The sluggish, mindless "Punch Drunk Love" ("My ungh is in your body/My ungh is in your mind") and "Sex 4 Suga" ("Girl, ooh, you look ungh") are nearly as dire, likewise sacrificing cleverness for bluntness. The album's last two tracks, production-wise, depart from hip-hop and will hopefully send some listeners back to the flawed greatness of Electric Circus. "What a World" features some of Common's most enjoyable, if simplistic, old-school rhymes, but the song is impaired by its dance-rock/Rapture-knockoff backdrop; and even with some of Common's most energized lines appearing as late as midway through the much more effective "Everywhere," the Dungeon Family's Mr. DJ (who produced two other tracks) drops some low-slung sci-fi synth-funk for Martina Topley-Bird's spaced vocal feature.

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