Friday, 4 December 2015

Kid Cudi explores mental illness on confounding 'Speedin' Bullet 2 Heaven' (Review)

Every great music artist goes through an incredibly weird phase.

Miles Davis once randomly banged out an album in an afternoon ("Agharta"). David Bowie had an industrial rock period (1997's "Earthling"). Two years ago, Kanye West gave us the confounding magnum opus that was "Yeezus."

Each of those albums featured at least a few redeemable qualities (in Kanye's case, several exceptional ones). But the same can't be said for rapper Kid Cudi's latest album "Speedin' Bullet 2 Heaven."

Since arriving in the late 2000s, the Cleveland-native has been hard at work on his epic "Man on the Moon" album series.

However, before releasing "Man on the Moon III" (probably due next year), Cudi has now released three  offshoot albums. The first two – "Indicud" and "Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon" – were mostly hit or miss. But "Speedin' Bullet" is something different entirely.

Over the past few years, Cudi has opened up publicly about his struggles with a mental health disorder that has led to depression and even suicidal thoughts. Cudi has gone as far as to dedicate "Speedin' Bullet" to anyone who has ever suffered from a mental disorder, choosing to channel his struggles and frustration through punk rock.

It's a noble pursuit for Cudi and one that occasionally works. "Confused" is a poignant track that finds Cudi pondering huge questions: "Who am I? Who are we? All I want to do is feel complete."

Cudi's pain boils over into compelling rage on "Fade to Red," while his punk and grunge tendencies take center stage on "Screwed." Elsewhere, the psychedelic vibe of "Adventure" is as enticing as anything Cudi's done over the past few years.

Unfortunately, for the most part, "Speedin' Bullet to Heaven" borders on unberable. Tracks like "Handle with Care," where Cudi warns any woman against dating him, "Red Sabbath" and " "Judgmental C***" (Yes, that's the title) are too self-deprecating to warrant more than one listen.

Elsewhere, a random Beavis and Butthead cameo bogs down "Man in the Night," while "The Nothing" fits its title all too well, as a mind-numbing snooze fest.

Cudi doesn't do himself any favors sonically either. Your first instinct might be to compare the live instrumentation and recording style to Jimi Hendrix. But that's only if you've never really listened to Jimi Hendrix.

Aside from the catchy melodies of "Fairy Tale Remains" and the sharp guitar sounds of the memorable title track, there isn't a standout piece of instrumentation to write about.

It's hard to truly know where Cudi's mind was at when he wrote and recorded "Speedin' Bullet." His ambition and vulnerability is something to marvel at.

But, musically, Cudi's new album amounts to a poor man's "Yeezus" – a baffling case of experimentation without any of the sonic depth. Grade: C-

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