I'm reminded of a quote from the days of old, circa 2002. A man once said "I John Reu, do promise you, the listener, always to keep it innovative, daggonit, my name is John Reuben and you have my word on it." While the majority of his music is hip hop at the core, he successfully mixes it with a dash of pop, some rock here and there, and whatever else he wants to do with it, really. And with the release of Reuben's sixth full-length album this year, entitled Sex, Drugs and Self-Control, he has once again kept his promise.
"Jamboree" is first, which was one of the four singles Reuben released through iTunes prior to the album's release. It makes use of a bass guitar and drum set, with some jazzy horns in the hook. Album highlight "Radio Makes You Lonely" starts off with a voice saying "Dance dance dance dance party party party party," which is appropriate as the song has a huge dance floor vibe (think The Gorillaz meet Beck at a Black Eyed Peas concert). Next up is a story about Reuben's past, from following after his "philosophical pothead" brother to when he "found God, called Him friend." The music is lively and upbeat, and Reuben actually sings in the hook. "In The Air" goes back to more of a hip hop sound and incorporates some cool-sounding keys and organs. It's not as great as the first three songs, but not bad either. Track five is the quirky-titled "Paranoid Schizophrenic Apocalyptic Whisper Kitten," which has odd music to fit the title, including some creepiness (even a little in the vocals here and there). The song isn't about one thing specifically (so far as I can tell), but it's definitely some of that John Reuben satire we know and love. Another iTunes single, "Town Folk," sports a disco-style guitar and is well-worth buying twice. It stays pretty low-key for the most part, but has some more of that dance vibe intertwined in it. "Confident" brings to mind Reuben's "Nuisance" from The Boy Vs The Cynic, and is about having a good attitude and being confident in yourself - or more accurately, Reuben being confident in himself ("Hey Johnny, hey Johnny, what a good day Johnny. That's what I tell myself, I'm put together pretty well").
"Everett" is lead by a bass guitar, with some well-placed synth and a drum machine from time to time. One thing you won't find too often on Sex, Drugs and Self-Control is Reuben flowing, but you will in "Everett" for a few bars after the first hook. Older Reuben had it a lot, but he's drifted away from that a lot in recent years. You'll find another little flow session in the next song, a jam entitled "No Be Nah." Another highlight of the album, "No Be Nah" is all about being straight to the point and doing something when you say you're going to do it (I love the lines "soundbyte me, don't take that out of context" and "black and white gave gray an ultimatum"). Quiet violins, keyboards and some autotune make up most of "So Sexy For All The Right Reasons," a slow R&B song that John wrote his relationship with his wife before they were married. "Wooden Whistle Man" is musically brilliant, with escalating verses that go back to the beginning at the start of both verses. At first, it's Reuben's vocals over a kick drum and a man whistling a catchy tune, then there's a couple notes on a piano added, followed by the piano becoming the main instrument. The instrumentation (and an effect on the vocals in the bridge) give it a very classical sound. The final song of the album is called "Joyful Noise," and bears somewhat of a pop rock sound, while encouraging the listener to "make a joyful noise, clapping broken hands," despite how tough it can be.
Those who call themselves John Reuben fans will be very pleased with this new release from the gifted musician. For digital music consumers, if you buy Sex, Drugs and Self-Control on iTunes, you can get two bonus remixes (or bonus tracks, depending on how you see them) called "20 Somethings Magazine" and "Come On Jamboree When The Radio Makes You Lonely." There's also an iTunes version containing both of those songs and the four music videos that Reuben has released for this album. Yes, four. The man has been busy when it comes to making this album. And all the work he put into it shows, and it pays off as well when you get the chance to listen to this. Don't hesitate. If you like John Reuben, or just straight up good and outside-the-box music, and you have some spare dollars (or if you've saved up for this moment), there's no reason to not go out and pick this up on Tuesday. Then sit back, relax and enjoy.- Review date: 12/18/09, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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