You know when youre talking to a friend, and he or she doesnt quite get a certain band you like? And you say something like, Oh, well, theyre an acquired taste. Usually, this refers to the lead vocalist, someone like a Billy Corgan, whose proclivity towards singing with a nasal voice irks many a music fan. Enter Sam Mickens of The Dead Science popularity. Mickens first solo album, Slay & Shake, is a producers wet dream. There are drum machines, organs, harmonies, guitar solos overlapping each other, and all of these events take place during the first track. Unfortunately, the vocalist betrays the music.
In the aforementioned epic opening number, Lord Death Man, Mickens continues proving he is aware of the vocal technique called vibrato. He decides to employ this technique over most of the 45-minute album. Fortunately, there are guest stars that make appearances. MC Grimm enters early on with a verse on Grisly Ghouls that could have been included on the Ghostbusters II soundtrack (Doug E. Freshs Spirit, anyone?). Shudder to Thinks Craig Wedren pops up on the finale, The Will to Live, which happens to be the best song on the album: stripped-down production with an acoustic bent and an eerie choral of gonna have to give it up to close the album.
Despite the good-natured ribbing, Slay & Shake really could have been a solid album. Everything sounds great, the guest stars are inspired, and the music varies throughout. At the Mountains of Madness/Ebb Tide is straight out of latter-day Roxy Music, while Witchs Cauldron features a guitar intro that recalls the poppiness of A.C. Newman. The vocals obviously wont bother Mickens fan base, who have clearly acquired the taste for his vocal stylings. As for the rest of us, I thi-i-i-i-i-i-i-nk well pa-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-ss.
Essential Tracks: The Will to Live