(Star Trak/Interscope) The line on NOTHING is that Pharrell Williams and N.E.R.D scrapped a finished album and simply started over. In any case, the stark militaristic cover and blatant political overtones of the album make it clear that there’s a message to be found in the music. The juxtaposition of simple party jams like “Party People” (featuring a verse from rapper T.I.) next to “The Man,” a cynical observation on how to opiate the masses, speaks volumes, as do the spacey acid-blues rants (“It’s in the Air,” “Help Me”) and bouncy, Ben Folds-styled piano-pop meditations on success (“Victory”). The dreamily melodic but too brief “Inside the Clouds” is a “hidden” track on the end of “I’ve Seen the Light” (there is full-length version worth tracking down). Somehow, the collaboration with electronic pioneers Daft Punk (the plodding “Hypnotize You”) ends up sounding like a missed opportunity. But it’s album highlight “Life As a Fish” that brings it all together into a blissfully sublime moment that invokes classic ‘60s pop acts like the Association and Classics IV. NOTHING is ample proof that N.E.R.D are fully capable of delivering music with the same quirky inventiveness that made their 2001 debut IN SEARCH OF such an instant classic.
(Originally published on Shockhound.com)