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N.E.R.D knows how to rock it


In Search Of

Virgin Records

If you haven’t heard the story of N.E.R.D. (No One Ever Really Dies), here it is in a nutshell. The group is made up in part by the super hip-hop production team the Neptunes. The Neptunes’ production is probably behind a quarter of the funky-assed joints on corporate radio that you know you love. Their cuts usually have funky broken up bass with funky guitars, think Jay-Z’s older hit, “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It to Me)” from last year. Their remixing is always hot as well. They even made the French duo Air hotter.

Late last year N.E.R.D. recorded a down and dirty album called In Search of … that was all right. Some advances went out, but right before it was released they decided to scrap the whole thing and redo it. That’s how these guys are. They decide they want a new, a whole new sound, and they can pull it off.

The new version of In Search Of … contains new versions of the same 12 songs with totally new production. They’ve proved they can bust hip-hop and R&B. Now they prove they can rock correct. That’s right, rock. And not that rap rock shit that is still amazingly popular in the suburbs. They keep it funky most of the time, poppy for a minute, krunked out for a second and sexy through and through.

Pharrell Williams’ vocals shine on the top of the mix, but the best thing about this disc is the guitar sound. The guitars, free of lead wankery, are always mixed where they should be: with minimal fuzz and never overpowering the thumping bass and drums. They’re a part of the beat. Yes, bass and drums can thump, even enough to move ass, in rock and roll. I’d almost forgotten.

Williams and the other nerds are often as full of themselves as anyone else in the game. They also make it clear they want to freak plenty. Hell, “Tape You” is one of the best arguments for taping a threesome I’ve heard in a long time. On the new version they speed up the beat and take out five minutes of sex sounds. The result is decidedly less porno, and it’s kind of sweet. They’re sweet fellows.

There are some bossa-nova endings, and a poppy song called “Baby Doll.” They bring on the romance, leave out the misogyny and keep the violence to a bare minimum. They still produce a dirty ass grind groove, “Truth or Dare,” with muddy guitars, string stabs and Kelis. Rock purists may not get it, and hip-hop heads may not feel the rock thing. But the bottom line? N.E.R.D. and the Neptunes are progressive, damn good and will never die.