Gil Scott-Heron

I'm New Here

By David DacksIf, after a 17-year pause, you were expecting the triumphant return of Gil Scott Heron's uplifting jazz funk fronted by "I've conquered my demons" lyrics, you'll be shocked. This disc sounds like nothing in Scott-Heron's career, and surely will be one of 2010's most daring artistic statements for its funk-less industrial noises and greyer-than-grey textures spiked with occasional acoustic guitar. Rising from a sample of Kanye West's "Flashing Lights" (payback of sorts for a man who's sampled him many times), Scott-Heron's weathered baritone is deeply introspective during "On Coming From A Broken Home." There is actually not that much new material on this album: even the title track is a cover, and a very unlikely one: Smog's "I'm New Here." Robert Johnson (a spectacularly strangled "Me And The Devil"), Bobby Blue Bland ("I'll Take Care Of You") and even his early work, "The Vulture" ("Your Soul And Mine"), flesh out mostly autobiographical, spoken word performances. Only "New York Is Killing Me," with its double-dutch rhythm, gets a proper groove going. The sonic concept is intriguing, but I can't help wondering whether another producer might have executed it with more rhythmic flair ― maybe remixes will address this. I'm New Here is a remarkable, but difficult, listen.
(XL)
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