MF Doom - Metal Fingers pres. Special Herbs 7, 8

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(Shaman Work/Shogun)

I have to admit that when I requested this album I was expecting an injection of some bad ass hip hop with the usual inappropriate lyrics, rhythmic flow and blunt-smokin’ feel. It came as a surprise, then, when this gentle little number hit my desk, all ablaze with twiddly experimentation and simple beats – but little in the way of vocals besides the occasional restrained “woo hoo” in sultry female tones. But it all became clear on the sleevenotes – this CD contains numbers that haven’t been recorded over by any artist – mostly new, and all intended for aspiring MCs to smear some clever rhymes over.

The man behind this offering is the very same as KMD, Operation Doomsday, King Geedorah, Viktor Vaughn (no, not the one who’s currently fiddling with Brad Pitt’s cast off, Jennifer Aniston), Madvillain, MM Food and The John Robinson Project (phew!) ... he even throws down a few beats for the fine new Gorillaz album … it’s MF Doom! Cutely, each track is named after a healing root and its properties described –

As a reviewer, not a poet or rhymer, this came as somewhat of a challenge, so I decided it would probably be better to focus on general mood and musical arrangement. The whole thing has a storytelling feel, veering wildly from 70s film soundtrack to smoky cabaret bar and even on to the mean streets. Standouts are probably track three, Licorice, a smoochy backdrop suited to a surprisingly romantic scene in a bad cop flick; followed by the wild western overtures of Sarsparilla - for a lonesome cowboy gone bad, perhaps? Fo Ti could be very cute and cartoonish but for the seriously eerie under-beat and monkeying-around tempo. It would be interesting to hear what an MC could come up with for that one!

Back to the sleaze with Camphor, then on to the memory-flicking vibes of High John – spark a cigar for that number, recline in your chair and let your past misdeeds roll over you in gentle repose. Mandrake is great, an instantly recognisable hook from some fine old ditty from the 70s or 80s, followed by the wikka wikka guitar and twangly doubly bass of Devil’s Shoestring. Towards the end, Cedar is decidedly funky – living up to its smoky association, this is a big bold backdrop with an addictive beat. Buckeyes – for rheumatism and arthritis, divination, very lucky, attracts money and wealth – may not in fact do all of those but it is pleasant and filmic enough for me. Finally, with Chrysanthemum Flowers, it’s off to Mexico for a tequila, a siesta and a spot of chess with some old hombre as the sun sets over the square … adios amigos.

Aspiring MCs should get their sticky paws on this one and start practicing … everyone else can just enjoy the ride.

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