The Clan sounds lean, experienced and relaxed on a recommended new collection.
Daniel Ross 2011-07-18
Each release by the now-legendary Wu-Tang Clan is met with trepidation by listeners. Since their game-changing inception album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), subsequent collections are worried over in the hope that they might match the majesty of that first recording, rather than the overlong hotchpotch of Wu-Tang Forever or any of their inconsistent recent work. Even more confusion is thrown into the mix when albums such as this, ostensibly a gathering of most of the Clan’s members (the tracklisting doesn’t feature GZA or Masta Killa), arrive but probably can’t be included in their full album-proper discography.
Whether it can or can’t be counted as their sixth LP, thanks to the majority showing and the natural excellence of many of their contributions, Legendary Weapons is very much a positive sign. They remain vigorously dedicated to aggressive, loopy imagery and have relaxed into a sound dominated by soul beats and samples – the point being that they all sound extremely comfortable with their default settings. In no way is this a bad thing, because it’s allowed their natural colours to show more than they have in some years.
Even Method Man’s contented observations regarding his morning routine on Diesel Fluid ("Bowl of cereal, cartoons on / My favourite s*** is the Smurfs,") are pleasingly mundane. Guest appearances fly past at quite a lick, from Sean Price of Random Axe to Wu apprentice Trife Diesel and several others, but they are mostly eclipsed by the more recognisable personalities. Ghostface Killah, as usual, delivers the most spirited rhymes throughout. He completely dominates the first half of The Black Diamonds with his talk of spy antics over Satie-esque suspended piano chords, leaving you (in his words) slumped dead on a chessboard and left to be discovered by a park ranger. The Clan’s gift for surrealism is, thankfully, undiminished.
Crucially, this is a direct work. No tarrying over ponderous moral dilemmas, no emotional accounts of deaths in the slums, just an exceptionally entertaining box of delights. They sound lean, experienced and relaxed, their lyrics still dusted with grit and recorded with spit on the mic, but possessive of a curious, comfortable maturity. Even if this is merely the set that fills a gap until the rumoured sixth album proper arrives in 2012, it’s safe to say the Clan are definitely back at the front amongst their peers.