Even though the album is titled Ep002, it represents indie rock collective thenewno2′s third release. The group debuted in 2007 with their first EP, appropriately named Ep001; that was followed two years later by the full-length effort You Are Here. Initially attracting notice due to its founder Dhani Harrison being the son of Beatle George Harrison, thenewno2 soon earned a spot on Rolling Stone’s 2009 “Hot List.” Live performances at Lollapalooza and the Pearl Jam 20 Festival, among numerous high-profile gigs, followed. Ep002 marks another phase in their career in that it features some well-known guests: Regina Spektor and Wu-Tang Clan rapper RZA, among others. The result is an intriguing mix of rock, electronica, and rap.
Harrison handles lead vocals, sounding eerily like his father in tone and phrasing. The trance-like track “Wide Awake” contains psychedelic elements—distorted guitars, swirling keyboards, and a slow, steady beat dominate the song. But the mood quickly changes with “Mr. President,” which features RZA, Crisis, and Sir Eyes. The mashup between thenewno2′s brand of electronic rock and hip hop works surprisingly well, with Harrison’s wry vocals nicely complimenting RZA, Sir Eyes’, and Crisis’ biting lines. Imagine George Harrison collaborating with rap artists, and you get a fairly clear picture of the track. “Here come the Americans!” Dhani Harrison cries, with the rap breaks first addressing President Obama. “Mr. President, thank you for lowering the prices of our medicine/ Being that the Bush war has created more war veterans” they snarl. The second break definitely concerns President Bush: “Mr. President you got the whole country in debt/ Get your family more wealthy, while we suffer for it!/ I’m talking Bush not Obama.” Regardless of your political persuasion, “Mr. President” grabs the listener’s attention with its relentless beats and contrasts between Harrison’s airy vocals and some furious rapping.
The next track, “Live A Lie,” features Spektor singing backing harmonies as well as the refrain. With its distorted guitars, ethereal vocals, and electronic beat, it recalls Massive Attack in its brooding mood. Lyrically the words are clearly meant to create atmosphere rather than tell a story. “You and I in the same room/ Now you and I are fallen through,” Harrison croons, with Spekor’s light voice weaving into the heavy beat: “So long just waiting/ Waiting/ Doors and windows closed,” she sings.
The final Ep002 track is a pHd “One Nation” remix of “Mr. President,” which increases the tempo, intensifies the beat, and processes Harrison’s vocals differently. While an interesting alternate version, it seems a bit tacked on.
With their third release and second EP, thenewno2 continues to forge their own identity. Collaborating with other artists seems to have paid off—the band should further explore hip-hop connections in future works. Harrison’s almost identical vocals to his father slightly jars the listener, but Dhani should be applauded for recording music completely different from his famous dad. Those who enjoy Massive Attack or Radiohead should check out Ep002 and thenewno2′s still-emerging sound.
For a free download of lead single “Live A Lie,” visit and “like” thenewno2′s Facebook page. To listen to “Mr. President,” click here. For further information, see the band’s official page and MySpace Music page.