If Greatest Misses was viewed as a temporary stumble upon its release in 1992, Muse Sick-n-Hour Mess Age was viewed as proof positive that Public Enemy was creatively bankrupt and washed up when it appeared in 1994. By and large, it was savaged in the press, most notably in a two-star pan by Touré in Rolling Stone, whose review still irked PE leader Chuck D years later. In retrospect, it's hard not to agree with Chuck's anger, since Muse Sick is hardly the disaster it was painted at the time. In fact, it's a thoroughly enjoyable, powerful album, one that is certainly not as visionary as the group's first four records, but is as musically satisfying. Its greatest crime is that it arrived at a time when so few were interested in not just Public Enemy, but what the group represents -- namely, aggressive, uncompromising, noisy political rap that's unafraid, and places as much emphasis on soundscape as it does on groove. In 1994, hip-hop was immersed in gangsta murk (the Wu-Tang Clan's visionary 1993 debut, Enter the Wu-Tang, was only beginning to break the stranglehold of G-funk), and nobody cared to hear Public Enemy's unapologetic music, particularly since it made no concessions to the fads and trends of the times. Based solely on the sound, Muse Sick, in fact, could have appeared in 1991 as the sequel to Fear of a Black Planet, and even if it doesn't have the glorious highs of Apocalypse 91, it is arguably a more cohesive listen, with a greater sense of purpose and more consistent material than that record. But, timing does count for something, and Apocalypse did arrive when the group was not just at the peak of their powers, but at the peak of their hold on the public imagination, two things that cannot be discounted when considering the impact of an album. This record, in contrast, stands outside of time, sounding better as the years have passed, because when it's separated from fashion and trends, it's revealed as a damn good Public Enemy record. True, it doesn't offer anything new, but it offers a uniformly satisfying listen and it has stood the test of time better than many records that elbowed it off the charts and out of public consciousness during that bleak summer of 1994.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine