Collaboration albums are notoriously difficult to pilot, often needing a veteran hand at the controls. N.A.S.A.'s journey is especially tough, given that they lined up one of the most impressive guest lists ever seen on a debut album. No less than three dozen artists have features on The Spirit of Apollo, and at least ten of them would be the crown jewel on most LPs -- Kanye West, M.I.A., Karen O from Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Santogold, no less than three members of Wu-Tang Clan (one of them deceased), Spank Rock, John Frusciante, Lykke Li, and a trio of alternative godfathers: David Byrne, Tom Waits, and George Clinton. N.A.S.A., a duo of DJs and producers (one American, one Brazilian), have a concept in mind, assembling sounds and styles from around the globe, then smashing them together and watching the results of such a collision, with the attendant revelations of the similarities and differences between people around the world. An ambitious concept, to be sure, and also one that comes rife with expectations when the cast is as star-studded as this. Unfortunately, as rendered by N.A.S.A., the world doesn't sound very exciting. The style of this global melting pot is basically midtempo hip-hop of the Daisy Age variety, laced with verse after verse and chorus after chorus of guest features (most tracks feature at least three). Few of the guests stand out, none of them seem to be speaking to each other, and the result is, ironically, a Babel of voices and sounds that doesn't communicate much of anything. As glorious as these soundclashes are -- Gift of Gab rapping next to David Byrne, Lykke Li singing an airy chorus over Kanye West rhymes and Santogold lines, Karen O next to Ol' Dirty Bastard, and the denouement, where Kool Keith waxes nostalgic over a gutbucket Tom Waits chorus -- they're presented with little rhyme and no reason.
AllMusic Review by John Bush