The Neptunes Present… Clones

Let’s get the bad bit out of the way immediately. What is this Spymob/High Speed Scene pair of tracks in the middle of the album? Tedious rock tracks that are utterly out of keeping and not obviously linked in any way to the Neptunes, though presumably these dull tunes are by them.

It’s odd (maybe forgiveable caution?) that Pharrell’s first solo credit (Frontin’) is one of their more straightforward rhythms. It’s a lovely record, but it’s hardly one of their more daring outings. Is his somewhat thin voice enough of a drawback to his career, given the musical brilliance and physical beauty? How big a star can he become?

Busta Rhymes’ track Light Your A** On Fire is astoundingly spare with its odd electro beats. The Rosco P Goldchain track is even sparser, with something that sounds like muffled sawing carrying much of the mood, like some sort of minimalist riposte to Dooms Night. This is genuinely great stuff. The Snoop track, with its booming bass and tinny ringing, is equally clear most of the time – I think we have the new big thing here, an absolute opposition to, say, Adam F’s orchestral bombast.

The richness and complexity and freshness and force of their rhythms is extraordinary. They’ve been prominent for a few years now, and there have been moments when they seem to be tailing off a touch, but it never lasts. They’ve also been a big part of making that R&B/hip hop territory the most musically and culturally thrilling scene we’ve had in a long time, I think. Where is there stronger music, more imagination, more exciting acts, better hit records? I realise that the Neptunes are given plenty of love from many quarters, but I still think that maybe it’s not been near enough yet.