Tuesday, March 23, 2004

JC Chasez's Schizophrenic is a bit of a mixed bag - some ballads better than they've any right, some of the uptempo oddly not - but it's got a couple of tracks on it that are just utterly ace. "Some Girls (Dance with Women)" you should already know, very sleek and streamlined and surprisingly sexy (music not lyrics, especially the verses, though the lyrics aren't as bad as you have a right to anticipate) - go for the version with the addition of Dirt McGirt, a/k/a The Artist Formerly Known as Ol' Dirty Bastard, 'cause he makes all things better with even more aplomb than the Fab 5. [Dirty in "I like touchin' buck-naked skin" shocker!] However, JC, you are not Keith Richards on a C&W bender, so don't even try "Something Special," 'cause it ain't happenin'. "Shake It," meanwhile, I knew was produced and written by Basement Jaxx without even looking at the credits; it's got that vaguely reggae-ish carnival-organ-on-acieeed feel that just screams Jaxx, even if it doesn't actually sound like anything they've (yet) done. But it sounds like it's trying a little too hard. What with Chasez and Jaxx's twin Prince obsessions - and the stunner of Kish Kash's "Plug It In" - this should be more exciting, shouldn't it? "100 Ways" and some other songs try too hard in a different way, which All Music's inimitable Stephen Thomas Erlewine nails in his review:

[Chasez] tries harder to distinguish himself, particularly by shedding his boy background preening as a sexually charged yet sex-starved loverman. Problem is, JC is hardly convincing as a sex machine. It's partially because his voice is a little thin, partially because he resorts to schoolyard slogans like "All Day Long I Dream About Sex," but mostly because his words play like somebody who is trying to be sexy instead of simply being sexy. There's a reason why sex-obsessed singers from Prince to Diamond David Lee Roth haven't sung lines like Chasez's "'Cause when I'm all alone/I lie awake and masturbate" ? it doesn't sound like seduction, it sounds desperate, lonely, and needy. And that's just the most quotable of the dozens of weirdly worded, panting come-ons on Schizophrenic ? there's also the cheerfully banal "so much fun being naughty," the exhortation that his lover is "such a sexy dame," his desire to "sleaze you girl," and his confession that he has to "adjust the button fly on my Levis when you walk into the door," which suggests that Chasez is a sucker for clumsy dames.

What he said, reinforced by the unfortunate lyrics of "All Day Long" (which, as it would happen, has a very appealling, chunky groove, especially in its faux-electro mid-song breakdown).

But if it sounds like I'm praising Schizophrenic with faint damning, wait. "Lose Myself" - not an Eminem reworking - is a sensitive-without-schlock ballad, pretty without pretense, complete with a gorgeous arrangement which appropriately lets Chasez breathe (and multitrack his supple voice into an army of backing singers). A blatantly fake-sounding piano anchors "Build My World"'s midtempo sentiments, and Chasez sounds so relaxed, it works. "Everything You Want" has got a synthetic reggae groove more convincing than any Sean Paul record (now, that's damning with faint praise). And then there's "She Got Me."

If "She Got Me" had been stowed away to be the first single from the next will-they-or-won't-they *NSync album, it woulda knocked the proceedings outta the park. But frankly, I'm glad Chasez kept it for himself (as well he should have, since apart from the Jaxx contribution, he gets a songwriting credit for every track on the album - what Justin can do, JC can do, too?). This standout song features no superstar producers or writers, just Chasez and his collaborators (mostly guitarist Gregg Arreguin and coproducer Robb Boldt) working a simple and so effective pop-rock groove based around a deliciously strummy acoustic riff and some ridiculous "whoop whoop" chanting. "She Got Me" is one of those pop songs that's so easy and obvious you wonder why you didn't write/record it. This deserves to be a massive summer smash. It probably won't even be released as a single, to my (and, likely, Chasez's) chagrin.

Frustratingly, Schizophrenic is exactly as advertised, too much so. Much of the music on this album is just great. The lyrics, however, aren't. And Chasez never seems to lock into a comfort zone of a groove, (too) gleefully jumping from one to the next, with no adhesion present. This should be a better album than it is; relish the highs and hope for more the next time. Hell, hope there is a next time. B

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