Cage Depart From Me

[Definitive Jux; 2009]

Rating: 1/5

Styles: rap, nu-metal
Others: El-P, Aesop Rock

While some works of art inspire immediate, heartfelt invectives, there are others that can yield only well-reasoned opinion. Depart From Me, Cage's third album, strives in vain for the former but accomplishes the latter, a feat blanched by the success that his method of working has produced until now: Hell’s Winter seized the jugular. Depart From Me, on the other hand, takes the listener through a long, drawn-out calibration of emotional responses. That the record galvanizes one’s thoughts is indeed creditable — who wants to make an uninspiring record? — but by its end, those emotional responses only culminate in perplexity.

Depart From Me is not a sign of development, but of regression. It's not that Cage is past his prime, but only that his streetwise approach — once engrossing and reflective — has become obnoxiously juvenile. True, he's always been self-absorbed, but he had proved to be a complex enough individual to warrant the biopic we keep hearing rumors about. Depart From Me, however, is depressingly devoid of the heaviness of Hell’s Winter. The tasteless “Teenage Hands” and “Strain” are proof enough.

While Cage's writing here seems to approximate the snickering self-approval of snot-nosed pubescence, the memorably atrocious music fails to salvage the album. Opener “Nothing Left to Say” — after its in-and-out phasing of distant synthesizers and a voice-over that sounds much less sinister than was probably intended — erupts into a beat pulsating at full tilt. Although it’s not particularly impressive, it sounds enough like Cage, and this second movement adequately shows off his skills as a rapper. But consternation quickly replaces this indifference, as one realizes that Depart From Me is intended to be a fusion of hip-hop and rock. Cage has accomplished this in the past, but has the mixture of any two musical styles ever disgorged something worthy of such repugnance? Oh, well. Depart From Me does accomplish something by way of bursting our little happy place with the realization that nu-metal didn’t forever go away with the last century.

The remainder of the record completes Cage’s walkabout from sophistication to childishness, and does little but test the porousness of the expectations we’ve had since Hell’s Winter closed out. Rarely will one find a detractor when it comes to Cage's sheer talent, but — thanks to sterile production and the replacement of hip-hop beats with rap-rock thrashings (“Beat Kids”) and corny, overdramatized hooks (“Captain Bumout”) — Depart From Me demonstrates an immaturity that will render Cage’s career difficult to reconcile.

1. Nothing Left To Say
2. Beat Kids
3. Dr Strong
4. I Found My Mind In CT
5. I Lost It In Havertown
6. Teenage Hands
7. Eating Its Way Out Of Me
8. Kick Rocks
9. Katie’s Song
10. Strain
11. Fat Kids Need An Anthem
12. Look At What You Did
13. Depart From Me
14. I Never Knew You

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