My last time listening to (hed) P.E. was back in January 2005, when I took a stab at their last album, Only in Amerka. That was my first experience with the band, and I did not find it to be a terribly favorable one. I was criticized by fans for my views, some rightly so, others not. In any case, my experience and subsequent review of that album did not endear me to fans, just as the album did not endear the band to me. So here we are, a year and a half later, I have in my hands an advance copy of their latest release, Back 2 Base X, their first for their new label, Suburban Noize.
Granted, I was not sure that I should even go near this disc, considering the disastrous results I had the first time. But, on the flipside, I was intrigued by the idea of revisiting a band that I had previously panned, to see if they were bringing anything new to the table to potentially win me back. After taking a few passes through Back 2 Base X, I can report that while they may not have won me over as a fulltime fan, they have crafted an album that has a lot of good grooves and a healthy dose of originality. This is a good album, one that will find its way to my playlist a lot faster than the last album.
(hed) P.E. have delivered an album with an intriguing mix of hip-hop, punk, metal, and a healthy dose of the ’70s. I found it hard to believe that I was listening to the same band. This album isn’t short on groove or attitude. The attitude and ferocity with which they perform is evident and infectious. You will find yourself rocking to the beat, whether it be a raw punk riff, some smooth funk inflected cut, or a hip-hop rhyme. The styles, at first glance, would seem to clash, these guys are no rap-metal act: they swirl around, bending the conventions to the whim of the song.
The album was recorded live in the studio – something that you do not see all that often. This approach gives the music an organic, unproduced feel. Many albums sound way overproduced, too many studio touch-ups disguising the ability, or lack of, a band has. A good example of an overproduced sound is Linkin Park. They have a few decent cuts, but overall, the album feels like a studio, it doesn’t breathe. (hed) P.E. has taken the live atmosphere in the studio and let the music breathe, exposing their ability, which may not be the best in the world, but comes together on this song collection. They play that blended style, switching up from song to song, yet never losing the big picture of the album. It flows from start to finish, making it something more than just a collection.
(Before going any further, I would like to sidestep a bit. I would love to know the origin of the band name. I know the P.E. stands for Planet Earth, but what does the whole thing mean, and how did they come up with it? It is rather odd with the initials and the punctuation. It is not the easiest band name to say. So if any of you can enlighten me to the origins, I would be much obliged. Interlude over, back to the album at hand.)
The album opens with the ’70s-flavored “Listen.” It is a nice welcoming groove that eases you into an album that reflects on mortality and the hidden forces of the world, including freemasonry and the New World Order. That smooth flow gives way to the punk metal of “Novus Ordos Clitorus,” which brings the energy level up and demonstrates the variety of sounds they produce.
Highlights of the album include the in your face “Get Ready,” which will likely be a great live cut – it would probably make a good show-opener. Another top one is the reggae-inflected “Sophia.” Not to be missed is the hip-hop cut “Daze or War,” it has an old-school feel that will get your head bobbing. There are a few other tracks worthwhile, but they all have a nice flow, basically just put it on and listen to it straight through.
I’ve said it before, and probably will again, but for some reason I want to equate these guys with Dope. They are distinctly different bands, but they seem to have had similar issues with record labels and doing things on their own. Essentially, they have done a lot of their own promotion and had their own struggles to get their music out there. Plus, I think they would be an insane live tandem should they do a tour together.
Bottomline. Well, how things change. This is not a great album, but it is definitely a good one, and has gone a long way to wipe their last one from my mind. Back to Base X is an album that has a variety of styles that all mesh well and demonstrate an energy that must be great live. This is a disk that I have no problems recommending, to fans, or those new to the band.