From the jump N.E.R.D’s new CD Seeing Sounds smacks me over the head with nostalgia. The cinematic intro to “Time for Some Action” borrows from the score to the movie “Psycho,” a little trick that Busta Rhymes pulled for the video to “Gimme Some More” almost ten years ago. And then after about a minute this rumbling bass and drum combo stirs up memories of the Dismasters’ “Small Time Hustler” from the recesses of my subconscious. By the time its over I’m still not sure what I’ve listened to, which is how I feel throughout much of this CD.
Chuckling is involuntary during “Everyone Nose” with its chant of “all the girls standing in the line for the bathroom,” but “Windows” sounds like it was trying too hard to be Gnarles Barkley and its cheesy guitar and claps sound more like Toni Basil’s “Mickey” chopped and screwed.
On “Anti Matter” Pharrell exploits the lowered bar of lyricism in hip-hop and has developed into a more than tolerable MC, but N.E.R.D is at their best when they aren’t trying too hard. “Yeah You” has great replay value with a stripped down bass line and saxophone melody meshed with a quirky love/hate message tailor-made for internet age love affairs. “Sooner or Later” is just screaming for a cameo from EPMD or Biz Markie with its use of that vintage Joe Tex “Papa Was Too” drum loop but it remains distinctly N.E.R.D with its soothing piano melody and quirky hook.
Unfortunately, “Happy” and “Kill Joy” are straight fast-forward material and the only thing salvageable from the conceptual mess of “Love Bomb” is the beat that they should have given to Common or one of their regulars. The aptly titled “Laugh About It” is what some listeners will do when they reach the end of this collection depending on how many hallucinogens they’ve ingested to get through it.
Overall, Seeing Sounds has flashes of goodness but feels like the Neptunes put it together with their eyes wide shut.