The Mad Conductor - Renegade Space Rock (Cover Artwork)

The Mad Conductor

Renegade Space Rock (2007)

Dan's House

In today's music world, it is extremely hard to come across something that is truly original. Even Mad Conductor's MC Devlin's old band (ska-punks No Cash) couldn't escape criticisms of sounding too much like Leftover Crack. This time around, however, he has released something with which no real comparisons can be made -- an infectious blend of reggae, dub, hip-hop, and, as Interpunk so accurately describes it, "stoner strangeness."

The album opens up with a drum roll that leads directly into what I would describe as urban reggae -- as if instead of getting stoned on a sunny beach, Bob Marley was hitting the bong in a dark alley, hiding from the police because he just killed one of their comrades. It is dark and laid-back, but there is a certain nervous energy to it that most reggae lacks. MC Devlin smoothly raps over the music, with lyrics as abstract as the music itself. It would be pointless to quote individual lyrics, as they only seem to make sense in the whole context of the song.

They then completely change directions with the following song, "Bayou Moon Stompin'," which has a funky stoner rock feel to it. Each new song seems to take the listener in a different direction, the formula always remaining the same (random instruments, studio effects, and abstract lyricism) but always changing styles, thus keeping things interesting. From the dark breakbeat rap of "Reactor #4" to the bouncy reggae of "Starry Safari," Renegade Space Rock will keep your attention from start to finish.

The standout track of the album is "Mr. Cacciatore" (which, for those who purchased their EP, is a recognizable character). The song opens up with the lyrics "All his life was Channel 13 / loaded guns in his face, he couldn't handle the scene / of a one horse town in southeast South Dakota / the pressure put cracks into his Powell-Peralta" and lets the listener know right off the bat that the story isn't going to end happily. The song switches off from funky verses to the happy sing-along choruses, even throwing in some stadium rock for good measure.

Another track that sticks out in my memory is the song "Destapadores," which is sung/rapped completely in Spanish. The vocals are reminiscent of Sublime's "Caress Me Down," however the presence of a Spanish guitar throughout the song (and lack of any reggae influences) quickly discredit any Sublime comparisons that can be made.

There is one line that has always struck me as the perfect way to describe the album. The line, from "Starry Safari" merely asks a question and is answered in the background: "Is it too hot to dance? Nah, we rock steady." To me, this one line sums up the album more than any string of adjectives and genres could ever do. Regardless, this is a great CD with an enormous amount of repeat value that should be at least tried out by everyone looking for something different.