Scroobius Pip - Distraction Pieces
Record Label: Strange Famous Records
Release Date: September 20, 2011
At last they said to the Fox - "By far,
You're the wisest beast! You know you are!
Go close to Scroobious Pip and say,
Tell us all about yourself we pray-
For as yet we can't make out in the least
If you're Fish or Insect, or Bird or Beast."
The Scroobious Pip looked vaguelyy round
And sang these words with a rumbling sound-
Chippetty Flip; Flippetty Chip;-
My only name is the Scroobious Pip.
Edward Lear, "The Scroobious Pip"
Edward Lear was an artist in quite a number of ways. While he is perhaps most famous for his poetry, he was also an accomplished illustrator and author. Limericks were his game, and it was this form of writing that he popularized before his death in 1888. The above excerpt from "The Scroobious Pip" defines a creature whom, no matter how hard it and the other animals may try, is impossible to categorize. David Meads, a poet of a more modern age, adapted the name of the titular creature for his own use. By dropping a vowel he became Scroobius Pip, and it wasn't long before his unique brand of writing was noticed by producer dan le sac. Combining their efforts, the two formed dan le sac vs. Scroobius Pip, a hip-hop duo that gained attention for their use of spoken word delivery and electronic beats.
Though attention was minimal for the pair when they were solo acts, their subsequent releases Angles and The Logic of Chance debuted respectably on the UK Charts. Driven by the somewhat undeserved hype of their first single "Thou Shalt Always Kill," dan le sac vs Scroobius Pip look destined to make a huge splash on the indie hip-hop scene. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. Thick accents and overly intellectual language made it hard for new fans to quickly get caught up in their energy, and the twosome were resigned to a very specific niche in the modern music scene.
But in all seriousness, I doubt that's an issue Pip spends time worrying about. His latest release, Distraction Pieces, is a continuation of the elements he lent to his work with dan le sac, though simplified from a production stand point for obvious reasons. Less electronic and more down to earth with traditional drum rolls and guitar work, the backing compositions are constantly fast and ferocious, a tempo Pip matches but at the same gets swallowed by more than a few times.
Distraction Pieces opens with "Introdiction," a stripped down opener that slowly builds, matching Pip's intensity with the addition of each piece of instrumentation. He uses "Introdiction" as both the literal introduction to the album as well as a way of familiarizing the user with both his use of the English language and the distinct way in which he delivers his message. The track excels as both, driven by a dissonant guitar melody and the interspersed reiteration of lyrics by a haunting children's chorus. Though rife with impressive vocabulary and a short Shakespearean reference, Pip's verses are rarely confusing or unintelligible, and flow along with at an intense pace throughout most of the track.
The follow-up "Let Em Come" opens with heavily distorted guitar chords and builds towards its raucous chorus to the steady beat of a snare drum. Much like the intro, Pip seems to amp himself up as the first verse rolls along, quiet at first but quite literally screaming by the time the punk inspired chorus comes around. Fellow artists P.O.S. and Sage Francis complement Pip's own ferocity, though the lyrical content and vocal delivery take a dip as soon as the main attraction hands over the reins. The lyrics are uplifting in their unyielding attempt to somehow intimidate future problems that may arise, but unfortunately tend to get lost in the overbearing production on more than one occasion.
One of Pip's goals while working on Distraction Pieces was obviously to create an album that shook the user, and to get them riled up in such a way that they examined the world around them with a more critical eye. As with "Let Em Come," a great deal of the production propping up Pip's lyrics takes elements of old-school punk and hardcore culture and mixes them with the spoken word and hip-hop inspired delivery he's become known for. Pip's lyrical content takes a page from the same book, and he uses his impressive knowledge of diction to convey his message accordingly. "Try Dying" implores the listener to stop worrying about the future and live in the moment. He jokingly quips, "if you wanna live forever, then you will die trying," the underlying message one of action instead of inaction. Popular news media is put to the stake on "Death of the Journalist," in which Pip lambasts the use of press to both give a platform to trivial events as well as spread misinformation to keep the populace as a whole in the dark and scared. While the message is an important one, it's nothing we haven't heard before. Pip makes valid points and yet doesn't make much of an impact at the same time, a glaring misstep that pops up on Distraction Pieces every now and then.
While the first part of the album is a bit of a sonic assault, the last few tracks slow things down to a speed that Pip seems more accustomed to. "The Struggle" is carried by bluegrass inspired guitar compositions as well as a thumping bass kick, and features the spoken word delivery that started Pip's career. The lyrics are introspective, a complete change from the heavily social themes used in most of the album, but the track is definitely aided by the more personal atmosphere. "Broken Promise" incorporates the electronics featured in his earlier projects, solid without much deviation from the sound levels established at the beginning. Pip speaks on emotions, both what develops them and what their consequences are, and uses much simpler language even as the focus shifts to more cerebral subjects. Even on an album with so many dramatic pieces, "Broken Promise" stands out as one of the main highlights.
Pip sought to make Distraction Pieces a grand gesture towards a more socially conscious way of thinking, made apparent by the jarring incorporation of drum and guitar work. Unfortunately, it tends to fall flat on that end more than once. While Pip's lyricism is as fantastic as its ever been, the backing compositions take away from his superb poetry by being the complete opposite of what makes him so interesting. It's frustrating that Pip's increasingly resilient writing talent isn't matched in prowess by the production that's supposed to support it. Overall, Distraction Pieces is a pleasant foray for Pip as a separate entity, but suffers from a few poor choices in how to impart his philosophy to both new and long-time listeners.
awesome review. i cant wait to hear this album i am a big pip fan. shame about the production, but i completely with what you said about let em come, the production blares over the vocals its a bit of a distraction (har har).
Listened to this last night. On 1st listen I'm loving it, could quite end up being in my top 5 AOTY list.
Also it's great to see this album doing well over here. On the release day (yesterday) it made it into the top 10 in the iTunes album charts which is great for a self released album that hasn't really had that much mainstream press (other than Zane Lowe playing the odd track)
I wholeheartedly agree about the production, the guitar/drums thing just does not work for him at all. I was pretty disappointed. That being said, "Broken Promise" is one of the best songs he's ever done.
Best spoken word album released in a very long time. I was a fan of Li(f)e by Sage Francis as well, but it feels like Sage hasn't released an album in forever even though it wasn't that long ago. The production on some tracks sadly tainted the album slightly, the track Introdiction is easily one of the best things (recorded) he's ever done.
been able to listen to it through a few times now. its solid but it really could have been a lot better. i am not a big fan of the production. the rock just doesnt mix well with his vocals. and a few of the more hiphop orientated tracks just sounded a tad gimmicky.
lyrics are solid as ever though. and introdiction is just one of the best tracks of the year.