Sole Live From Rome

[Anticon; 2005]

Styles: experimental hip hop, underground hip hop
Others: Pedestrian, Sage Francis, Passage, Buck 65, Shapeshifters

"Isn't Sole the guy who said 'I don't rap in bumper stickers/ I'm witty with 40-liners?'"
"Then why's every other line on this album sound like a slogan?"
"Because Sole's also the guy who contradicts himself until it's funny."

Sole's latest album, like much of his work thus far, sounds like a personal manifesto. His rants are backed by the usual production contributors, which results in an array of beats from glitch to grime. You can always tell what Sole has been reading recently from the references he makes. Cultural icons find their way into his verses at every available moment. Though Sole's lost some of the marble-mouth enunciation of his earlier days, he still jams as much information into each line with manic urgency. The self-awareness and paranoia he has concerning his place, his product, and his reputation acts as a hindrance. He'll digress in the middle of a song and diagnose himself with whatever mental disorder is popular that week. He condemns every institution and then self-deprecates, throwing his own body down to their level.

"Wait, so you're telling me this guy moved to Spain?"
"That's right. He's serious about his American resentment."
"I guess so."

Sole became somewhat of an expatriate while working on Live From Rome. Relocating himself appears to have solidified his views on things. Sole's negative opinion of everything under the disintegrating sun becomes laughable, supplying the only optimism in his songs. This is Sole's third album where he's used this approach (Selling Live Water and The New Human Is Illegal being the other two). It's become routine.

"Who do you think has more name-drops on their album -- Sole or The Game?"
"Hmm...that's a tough one."
"That's why I asked you."
"Well, it's probably about the same. But I think Sole's are better... his sound more worldly. The Dali Lama, Christina Ricci, Michael Moore, and Nixon have an edge over Dre, Pac, and NWA."
"Yeah, Compton can be confiding."

The pop icons, world leaders, and left-wing authors Sole chooses to cite are put together playfully and sloppily. His social commentary lacks the gallows humor and zany scenarios that Ryland Bouchard of The Robot Ate Me perfected with On Vacation. Nothing is resolved. World issues aren't dealt with, they're only slapped around gaily. They only provide fodder for Sole to turn into one-liners. The listener is unfulfilled at the album's end. We learn nothing new about Sole, who's the only character on the album (the quest appearance of Bleubird doesn't count considering he takes the same position as Sole -- not to mention it's nearly impossible to tell them apart vocally). There's nothing to grip on to. All the lyrics are observations twisted into weak witticisms.

And I have no idea what the Eminem impersonation at the end of "Imsotired" is about.

1. Cheap Entertainment
2. Self Inflicted Wounds
3. Predictions
4. Sin Carne
5. Entalude
6. Locust Farm
7. Every Single One Of Us
8. A Typical
9. Crisis
10. Manifesto 232
11. Banks Of Marble
12. Atheist Jihad
13. Dumb This Down
14. Imsotired
15. On Martyrdom
16. Theme
17. Drive By Detourment