With a hip-hop-centric brand of electro-pop infused with new wave, funk, and blues elements…even occasionally colored by the musical influences of member Rivka's Hasidic background…Mad Happy's sophomore effort, Renegade Geeks, showcases a fun and original musical blend that focuses more on diverse musicality than formula. Quirky, intricate drum programming, catchy electronic melodies, guitar, turntable scratching, and even a bit of violin form the backdrop for the sometimes sung, sometimes rapped vocal deliveries of duo Rivka and Mike iLL. With interesting, polished production and tight vocal work underpinned by a strong melodic framework, it's a solid and relatively successfully attempt at genre-blending.
When it comes to the album, three tracks in particular stand out. "Paint it Pink", a song that urges tolerance in the form of a great slice of rhythmic electro-pop, will likely still be running through your head hours after the CD has stopped thanks to its almost undeniably catchy chorus. The plodding "Shoulda Dissed You" throws out a particularly captivating trip-hop vibe carried by an excellent guitar riff. The disc's title track is the third, a bouncy offering with plenty of turntable scratching and a bit of a ska influence seemingly thrown into the mix.
The choppy, rhythmically interesting "Loaded Up" is the first of four tracks notably produced by ex-Talking Heads Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, the other three being the aforementioned "Shoulda Dissed You", the bouncy synth bass and quirky bleeps of "Icicle Man", and the upbeat Hasidic folk-infused "Wild and Bold" (complete with violin and group "hey"s). The opening "File 2 the Metal" is a strong tone-setter, a nicely rhythmic introduction with a great chorus synth/vocal hook. "Serial Wigga", on the other hand, is a slower number built around a lazy bass riff and saved from its repetitive nature by excellent vocals that include a brief nod to Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)". "Meaningless, Not Hard", a little rant against the working class life, is a delightful pop track that fits nicely into the flow of the album.
The disc is rounded out by 6 bonus tracks, merely consisting of instrumental versions of "File 2 the Metal", "Paint it Pink", "Renegade Geeks", "Serial Wigga", and "Meaningless, Not Hard" plus an alternate mix of "Wild and Bold" that's stripped down to vocals, violin, and scratching. However, sans vocals, the instrumentals are a bit sparse and less exceptional, seemingly tacked on to cover up the fact that the 9-song core album is under 35 minutes long. The "Wild and Bold" remix fares a bit better, far less quirky and fun than the album version but highlighting the track's strong violin work.
While the bonus tracks aren't much of a bonus (unless you're particularly fond of karaoke), the album itself is a quirky, enjoyable musical romp that's stylistically interesting and pop-oriented enough that it may even appeal to those that aren't particularly drawn to hip-hop. With an ever-evolving musical blend and a recurring lyrical focus on individuality and acceptance, Mad Happy's Renegade Geeks is an album that's a bit left of center and certainly interesting enough to warrant a listen.
Mad Happy website: www.madhappy.com
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