Matisyahu Youth

Not many people can put Orthodox Jew, human beatbox, stage diver and dancehall deejay on their C.V. but Matisyahu proved with the strength of his debut album, Shake off the Dust…Arise that such a unique blend could be both exciting and find a welcoming audience. But with a record deal behind him now and the money to hire an A-list producer, Matisyahu’s second disc might sound stadium ready but the material is uneven at best. Matisyahu is at his best when speed-toasting and trying to sound, often convincingly, like he borrowed Anthony B’s dialect instead of one from middle America. The kind of agitated and sure-fire rhythmic delivery on tracks like "Fire of Heaven/Altar of Earth” should be the norm on the album but all too often a very good song turns very average once Matisyahu stops the toasting and starts singing. Similarly, the production never really knows where it’s trying to end up — dubby and spacey one moment, and stiff and radio friendly the next. Youth seems caught between trying to sound like a reggae smorgasbord and a mainstream crowd pleaser. Producer Bill Laswell adds plenty of his renowned dub mastery, mostly to positive ends, but seems to be baffled by the dullness of songs like "WP” and out of his element in the downright embarrassing chorus of "Dispatch the Troops.” Strangely, one of the disc’s most memorable songs, "Jerusalem,” wasn’t even produced by Laswell. (Epic)