Junior Reid

True World Order

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Recording in his own studio for his own label enables Junior Reid to keep putting out his songs, and that's got its good and bad sides. On the upstroke, he's a worthwhile artist with things to say (hell, if he were white and played guitar, he might be a lo-fi indie hero) and no need to filter his music through an outside record label. On the negative tip, for Reid to lay down anything in skeletal form and release it whether it gets taken beyond the initial idea or not is a perfect formula for self-indulgence. True World Order is frustrating like that, because many tracks sound like demos of worthwhile songs crying out for more development and fuller arrangements -- "Weh Dem Ago Do" and "Wings of the Wind" fit that profile. It doesn't help that the sound is small and tinny, lacking almost any 3-D presence so everything sounds flat and colorless. When more instruments do enter the mix, they can cause things to get real cluttered real quick -- "Who Steal the Money from the Bank" could be quite good but suffers greatly on that level. "Them Start the War" sounds like a good blueprint in the operatic Bounty Killer vein, while the DJ himself guests on "Fuss & Fight," a rowdier, electronic groove that pushes hard and sounds fairly well thought through. "Madana" opens with a "look what they did to Tupac" chant and electro singjay rhythms from a motormouth Reid, and "Victim" with Anthony B. uses a sprightly backing track to frame a truth you can't argue with.

Other tracks are just plain weird. "Vision" is atmospheric going on ambient bordering on boring with a rap middle section and "Every Man Have Them Time" isn't much more than drum machine beats and voices with some keyboard noises -- there's nothing really remotely musical about it. And certainly no one was in the studio with Reid when he cut "Bottomless Pit," because its mix of kinda nyahbinghi drums with synth sonic effects starts ugly, but gets better once the drums kick in and the noises come more sparingly. With so much singjay and electronica, the acoustic guitar on "Crime Monster" is a blessed relief (folky Rasta?), but the song goes nowhere. "What If" does, but only downward to stagnation thanks to its obvious designs on being the next "Imagine" and a downright embarrassing Big Youth cameo. While "Rose, Where Is Your Clothes" is catchy enough, is it anything more than Reid finding an internal rhyme vocal hook he liked and running with it? Almost perversely, the best tracks come at the end. The blend of keyboard skank, minimal drum, and female backing vocals on "Tribulation" is complete enough to go out as is and "Sign" is no slouch, either. The title track works off a nice keyboard hook and groove, with Reid singjaying on top as synth strings echo his cadences and vocal rhythms or offer spare counterpoint. It's a good song, but True World Order is just too damned sketchy as a whole. And it's frustrating, because enough of the songs sound like they have something worth exploring inside them, but Reid hasn't taken the time to dig down deep and bring them out.