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20 August, 2008@8:33 am

To be completely honest, I’m a little bit over this “bedroom musician” thing that’s been going around lately. Yeah, technology is cheaper and studio-quality music programs can be downloaded for free through nefarious means, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that every half-assed music fan with access to a computer should be out promoting themselves as the next “cool kid” of music. No offense to those of you working the grind, but some things aren’t meant to be. Welcome, intern-turned-artist James Pants’ first record from Stones Throw pretty much fits that mold.

Publicized as an unmistakable voice of “fresh beats,” Pants is anything but. Welcome isn’t “fresh” by any means, but rather comes across as a shallow representation of the simplicity that made early synth-music so good. Instead of working up danceable beats like his predecessors, Pants seems intent to simply tease what could have been. Drawing you in with a catchy horn or a or a thick drum beat, he nearly always botches his tracks within the first 30 seconds. The flatness of the record is made worse as he somehow manages to work in pretty much every annoying sample from the last 30 years: robot voice – check, lawn-mower – check, car engine – check, gun-shots – check. The samples on the record seem to have been chosen for their eccentricity rather than their fit with the music; songs like My Girl become immediately off-putting after what sounds like a garage band practice session is made worse with psuedo-space noises that come out of nowhere.

And for a synth-record, Welcome is remarkably not jive inducing; tracks will not get you all “dumb in the club.” Pants has a penchant to work in sounds from a variety of genres, but on Welcome he strips away their character when he combines them, rendering them sub-standard. Maybe it’s charming in an ironic way, but if you do manage to listen long enough to hear some charm in it, it will eventually fade into insulting mediocrity.

With all my ragging, I do have to admit that there a few moments of mind-numbing brilliance. “Theme From Paris” and “Finger On The Knife”, with their Roots-centric drum-line cram more depth in a total of 4 minutes than the rest of the album as a whole. They’ll get you ridiculously happy, but much like the record, they’re only temporarily satisfying.

Welcome is a hard album to categorize. To Pants credit, there’s not much else on the market that sounds like it, but maybe there’s a reason why. He’s got undeniable talent, but until he gets rid of his distractions and focuses on making a fluid piece of music, it might be better to ignore him. – Michael Rodriguez

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