Messiah J & the Expert

From the Word Go

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Following an unsure debut, Irish rap duo Messiah J & the Expert released their second album, Now This I Have to Hear, in 2006. A much more coherent record, it balanced sparse, somber moods reminiscent of early-'90s East Coast hip-hop with a more palatable alternative rock sound that called to mind the likes of Radiohead and the Smiths. With From the Word Go, the pair employs a similarly wide scope of influences, but there is far more to hook the casual listener, from the four-on-the-floor dance percussion of "Jean Is Planning an Escape" to "Geography"'s tantalizing marriage of aggressive drum'n'bass beats with an infectious pop chorus courtesy of Dublin indie group Delorentos. Lyrically, there are two overriding and overlapping themes: friendship and trust. The latter veers regularly into the realm of politics, with barnstorming opener "Year of the Genie" and "Megaphone Man," an outsider's anthem in which Messiah J wishes out loud that he had the answers to life's problems and the confidence to broadcast them publicly. While the Expert's musical scope has expanded, J's lyrical skills have been significantly tightened, as demonstrated by album highlight "Amnesia Comes Easily," a paean to the durability of a good friendship, one where even the nastiest remarks can be forgiven because they come from the right place: "We're sorry; we don't need to speak it/With real friends these things don't even need to be said." Overall, From the Word Go succeeds in broadening the group's potential audience without compromising the integrity of the music, something that can only be seen as a move in the right direction.

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