Swollen Members

Monsters in the Closet

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This trawl through the vaults of the Vancouver-based hip-hop collective Swollen Members is unusual for a collection of B-sides and leftovers -- in that it ends up being more forward- than backward-looking. That's because the underground stalwarts -- Mad Child and Prevail, plus recent addition Moka Only -- decided to record a few new songs to fill out the disc, which ends up pointing the way to possible commercial successes previously undreamed of. "Breath," with its hook from Nelly Furtado and a juicy R&B foundation, could slot comfortably between the latest Murder Inc. and P. Diddy hits on a mix tape, while the manic "Battle Axe Exclusive" rages along in true Eminem fashion. Such moments won't necessarily be a pleasant surprise for the Members' devoted fanbase, but the remainder of Monsters in the Closet provides a generous helping of the less-conventional musical ambition that has won the group comparisons to Jurassic 5, Dilated Peoples, and other old-school revivalists. There's one true gem -- "Long Way Down," a sensitive love song that samples Sarah McLachlan's "Ice Cream" -- and many outtakes of better-than-average quality; though they aren't all monsters, they certainly deserve to come out of hiding.

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