Monday 7 October 2019

Review of 'All My Heroes Are Cornballs' by JPEGMAFIA

Have I got two tabs of music playing? Has my computer crashed? No, it’s just the new JPEGMAFIA album playing.

It’s been barely a year since experimental rap weirdo JPEGMAFIA released his last album Veteran. In that time, he’s been touring relentlessly and making frequent guest features on other people’s works. Somehow, he’s also found the time to produce this new album – an album which he has trollingly described as ‘disappointing’. Having listened to it, I can confirm that some fans may be legitimately disappointed, whilst non-fans may be completely baffled as to how this can qualify as ‘music’. As for my thoughts on this album, well, I think it’s a total thrill-ride (even if parts of it are confusing and utterly frustrating).

The song titles are equally as demented as they were on Veteran – even if there are no titles as hilariously provocative as ‘I Cannot Fucking Wait Til Morrissey Dies’, there are still some out-there examples such as ‘Life’s Hard, Here’s A Song About Sorrel’. As for the lyrics, they’re a word salad of pop culture references. There seem to be a few stabs at serious topics such as social media abuse and gun culture sprinkled throughout (‘Grimy Waifu’ is apparently a metaphor for ‘gun’), but it’s hard to know how seriously he takes them when a couple bars later he’s singing about being ‘dressed in your grandmama’s hand-me-downs’. As someone that like’s wacky lyrics, I’m not put off by it, especially as it suits the equally wacky production.

Much like Veteran, most of the beats are made up of stuttering samples and jittery drums that are constantly wondering off beat. If this wasn’t challenging enough, there are also abrupt beat switches to contend with as on ‘Beta Male Strategies’. I might have made a personal injury claim for whiplash were it not for the following track ‘JPEGMAFIA Type Beat’, which despite being the noisiest track on the album transitions seamlessly into ‘Grimy Waifu’ in a way that few producers can pull off.

These moments of smoothness show that Peggy isn’t just sloppily throwing beats together and passing them off as avant-garde. He could produce a smooth beat if he wanted – in fact, the Q-Tip-esque instrumental of ‘BBW’ proves this. The album also throws in lots of moments of soulful melody (more so than Veteran) that shows Peggy has a musical ear. My favourite example is ‘Feel the Frail’, which contains a heavenly chord progression and some beautiful guest vocals from Helena Deland (there are even some raw a capella vocals towards the end, which showcase the beautiful side of JPEGMAFIA’s rugged production style).

It’s these more melodic and accessible moments that some fans may also find ‘disappointing’. There’s a lot of R&B flavours in this album and a lot more singing from JPEGMAFIA himself – something which isn’t likely to appeal to fans of his abrasive noise-hop side. Personally, I didn’t mind a lot of the soulful synths, but there’s are definitely moments where the vocals are a little shaky or far too saturated in auto-tune for my liking. ‘Life’s Hard, Here’s A Song About Sorrell’ is the perfect example of this – the off-key autotune is so painful that Peggy may as well be loading his grimy waifu and shooting us in the ears with it. And then there’s the random vocal cover of ‘No Scrubs’ thrown into the mix, which just feels corny (I guess the album is titled ‘All My Heroes Are Cornballs’).

Bad singing aside, most of the rest of the album is fun, even if it does take a few listens to fully acclimatise to it. The desire to keep returning to it comes from the fact that it is so ridiculously and captivatingly creative. Even if some of it’s a hard listen, the moments of melody and Peggy’s accessible flow provide enough of a through-line. Of course, some people may not have the patience for it all, in which case listen to the new Post Malone album.