TATTL, 3. The Dungeon Family Problem

Two artists nudge one another for positions on the lower end of any list I make – The Wu-Tang Clan and the Dungeon Family. Both late-release records by multi-member groups, neither of which I’ve had time to pay the attention to I should. Drop them both in the interests of fairness? The thing is that I want to include the Wu despite myself, and I want to exclude the Dungeon Family despite its being, on some level, the better record.

So the DF problem is “To what extent does the lack of standout tracks lessen an album?”. To my pop way of thinking, not all LP cuts are equal. On Iron Flag, the Wu-Tang Clan produce two classic tracks (“Rules” and “Uzi (Pinky Ring)”) and a handful of entertaining ones amidst a lot of stuff that sounds, to be fair, like a bit of a rush job. But those two tracks light up the whole record, make me want to like all the rest more.

On the DF CD meanwhile, only “Crooked Booty” comes close to standing out, and that in part because it starts the album off. But overall it’s a more consistent effort – the production is more exciting (or at least modish), there are fewer tracks which bore and my finger never itches for the skip control. Which is the better record?

I’m still inclined to say the Wu. There are some tracks so good they can pull a whole record behind them – and often you end up finding that the rest of it grows on you too. And actually I can come up with good aesthetic reasons for preferring the Wu-Tang album – the band know how to use their star MCs better, so the whole thing comes over as charismatic even when the ideas on display are pretty paltry. (There are surely few worse guest appearances than Flavor Flav’s senile performance on “Soul Power”, one entirely based on him noticing that “two” rhymes with “Wu”.). The Dungeon Family – as a fusion of existing acts – have to be more democratic, which leads to some tracks never quite taking off as the mic is passed dutifully and no one MC really shines. Both albums rate a POSSIBLY.

(A variant on the Dungeon Family problem is that my singles best-of list might well end up just being killer cuts from my favourite albums.)