(hed)P.E. is a band to be admired for their perseverance and their desire to play by their own rules, and not succumb to the desires of the label execs. This is never going to be an easy career path if you are trying to get your music out to a wide audience. Still, good music will find its way to the people, but that is not always the case, and (hed)P.E. is a good example of that as well.
After their first few albums, they had a falling out with Jive Records, which led to their anger-filled release Only in Amerika on Koch Records. That proved to be a mere stop gap on their way to their current home, Suburban Noize Records. Insomnia is their second release on the label, following last year's Back 2 Base X. It's too bad this doesn't live up to last year's offering.
I have found (hed)P.E. to be an amazingly inconsistent band. My first real introduction to the band was probably not the best, Only in Amerika in 2005. It was an album that I really did not care for; it had some decent music, but lyrically it was vulgar, hateful, and not terribly interesting. Next up was 2006's Back 2 Base X, which was a considerable step up. It was an album that boasted a nice batch of grooves and a dose of originality. I then took a step back to their Jive years with a Best Of collection, which introduced me to the finest bits of their early releases.
This leads us to the present. Insomnia is in my CD player, and I feel as if I have taken a step back in time. This album sounds as if it should have been the transition from Only in Amerika and Back 2 Base X. Lyrically, this release is a mix of conspiracy theories and anti-establishment rants that are alternatingly screamed and sung, blended with misogyny and violence towards women. It is a mix that is a little offputting, as at times they are halfway interesting, but then they turn around and shoot themselves in the foot. Songs like "Game Over," "Suffa," "Comeova2nite," and "Mirrorballin" each provide examples of the lyrics that bring the band down. On the other hand, songs like "Game Over," Habeus," and "Tienanman Squared" provide counterpoint with lyrics that are much more interesting and worthwhile to listen to, even if they may not be the most insightful of lyrics.
Still, if you can get past the lyrical content, the music is actually pretty good for the most part. They continue to practice their brand of blended punk, rock, funk, jazz, and hip hop across and through the songs. There are some strong rhythms and beats that are easy to get into and groove along with, and their ability to transition through all of these styles within single songs is one of their strongest points.
One of the more intriguing songs is a cover of Buffalo Springfield's "For What's Worth," retitled here as "Children." It is actually pretty good, and spiced with a punk interlude. It feels surprisingly fitting in the midst of the rest of these songs.
Bottom line. I cannot recommend this album. It has a some interesting points, but on the whole I just don't really like it. I cannot get behind much of the lyrical content, and even the interesting points seem like paranoid conspiracy ramblings. Musically there are some cool transitions. Still, if you want a (hed)P.E. fix, try Jive's Best Of disk or Back 2 Base X.Powered by Sidelines