Luscious Jackson's debut EP, In Search of Manny, was a hipster favorite, setting the band up perfectly for a breakthrough to a larger audience with its first full-length album, 1994's Natural Ingredients. Given the richness of Manny, it seemed like the group could go any number of ways. The road the band chose, unfortunately, was the least adventurous. Instead of exploring the debut's darker recesses, the band smoothed the surfaces and turned on the sunshine, resulting in a record significantly brighter than the debut, but also considerably less compelling. Although Manny never quite deviated from its homemade rap-rock template, it always felt unpredictable; here, the music starts with the sunny, bustling "Citysong" and stays in a similar funky alt-rock groove for the remainder of the album. It's an appealing sound, particularly for the summer, but it's also a little monotonous, particularly because the songwriting isn't nearly as strong as it was on the EP. There are a few exceptions to the rule -- "Citysong" and "Deep Shag" both exploit this brighter sound well -- but they're all pushed to the front of the record, and they're overshadowed by the rest of the record, which is all rather formless (even the sociopolitical posturing feels directionless, never resonating as strongly as the sketches of urban life from Manny). So, this is a groove record, where the feel and the rhythms matter more than the individual songs, which wouldn't be bad if the grooves had variety or grit. As it stands, it's a nice, listenable record, but ultimately a little forgettable, which is a considerable disappointment after the rich In Search of Manny, which had feel, varied grooves, imagination, and songs.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine