Saul Williams – Volcanic Sunlight

I wonder if Saul Williams is trying to be subversive with his latest album, Volcanic Sunlight. Williams has always incorporated elements of rock into his work, but this piece moves into a terrain more seemingly influenced by mainstream dance pop music (the synth stabs in “Look to the Sun” emphasize this). I have to wonder if this is subversion of the existing pop landscape as Williams sees it, because he seems like a smart guy and is a great poet. The highlight of the album is the first fifteen or so seconds which is just Williams speaking without music. Overall though, the writing lacks the urgency of other releases – there’s no call to arms here as in “List of Demands.” The dance influence, lack of urgent lyrics, coupled with extraordinarily flat production (I’d love to blame someone for this but my promo copy doesn’t name a producer nor does any information I can find online) all lead me to wonder if this is Williams’ criticism of the current pop landscape. Or maybe, after a run of a couple great albums, this is simply a misstep.  Critical though it may be, if it takes me 11 tracks to get to something that I’d like to listen to more than once (“Fall Up”), you have a problem. (Pirates Blend, Devin King

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