Music News

N.A.S.A.: Fun Concept, Boring Reality

As we come right smack into another Tuesday rife with new releases, I will choose to focus my energies on one particular release, N.A.S.A.'s The Spirit of Apollo. N.A.S.A. (North America/South America) is the collaboration between DJ Zegon (Ze Gonzales) and Squeak E. Clean (Sam Spiegel). Apollo has been hotly anticipated, due to its rather unique lineup of guest vocals. The album features the vocals of M.I.A., Lykke Li, Kanye West (ugh), RZA, KRS One, Chali 2na, Seu Jorge, Tom Waits, George Clinton and, of course, David Byrne. While a few songs are rather enjoyable and showcase the unique talents of Gonzales and Spiegel, a good chunk of the album is pretty clunky and transcendentaly confusing. Never, ever EVER should you put the late Ol' Dirty Bastard and Karen O. on the same song. EVER. I don't care how hip and cool you think you are, some things are better left never even attempted. But N.A.S.A. doesn't really give a shit and dives head first into an album that -- if nothing else -- showcases their odd knack for bringing together musicians and having David Byrne almost rap.

The song that features Byrne, "Money," is most likely the album's best offering, right there with the lead single "Whachadoin?" It's insanely catchy, with a painfully simple hook and it the one song with the best use of all the guest vocals on the track (Byne, Chuck D., Ras Congo). However, a lot of what's on The Spirit of Apollo sounds like a boring hip-hop album produced by white dudes (yes, I am able to hear it even without knowing who Gonzales and Spiegel are). I feel that I must disclose the fact that Sam Spiegel is Spike Jonze's little brother -- and I rather dislike Jonze, due to his arrogance, lack of creativity and the fact that he was an absolute dick to his then wife Sofia Coppola (the dickhead photographer that Giovanni Ribisi played in Lost in Translation? Yeah, that was based on him). So Spiegel was already fighting an uphill battle with me, but at least he chose to keep his real last name, unlike his goofy brother.

I love the effort on this album, and I love the creativity of Gonzales and Spiegel. They built a lot of hype surrounding the kooky premise of Apollo, so it's a shame to see that once the album dropped that the concept was high but the overall quality was iffy. Nothing on the album, save "Money" and "Whachadoin?," really stands out, and those tracks are heavily bolstered by the vocals. "Whachadoin?" actually has some pretty sick beats going for it -- plenty thumping and nasty -- and having M.I.A. and Spank Rock on the same track is pretty fucking sweet. I just wish the rest of the album was more geared towards this idea of hip-hop instead of losing focus trying to get David Byrne and Tom Waits alongside E-40 and Ghostface Killah.

The Spirit of Apollo is out today on Anti.

Listen to the songs "Money" and "Whachadoin?" at N.A.S.A.'s myspace.

Bonus Note: Given that E-40 lends his vocals on the album, has anyone else noticed how prolific the man is these days? He now has his name on tracks by N.A.S.A., The Lonely Island (seriously, go check out their album Incredibad) and MSTRKRFT. I'm very pleased with the 4-0. As he would simply say, "It's E-Feezey, man."

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Michael Lopez