Pigeon John Sings the Blues

Artist: Pigeon JohnTitle: Pigeon John Sings the BluesRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Paine

Hip-hop seems to have gotten far too serious to make room for the quirky. While Shock G and Biz Markie fit nicely into the mainstream of the late 80’s, artists like Edan and MC Paul Barman had to rely on cult followings. Pigeon John is one of these artists who mixes very realistic messages with sprinkles of humor and weird hooks. On top of that, he blends Hip-hop sensibility with a lighter Rock vocal appreciation that softened his Pigeon John is Dating Your Sister debut, and made it hard to translate for many consumers. But this MC has earned his stripes in Los Angeles’ underground, and made lots of noise with LA Symphony in the mid-90’s. Plus, he just signed to DJ Shadow’s Quannum Projects – a label that’s seldom criticized for its music. So sticking to the same formula, it’s in question whether or not Jon can convince us a second time with Pigeon John Sings the Blues (Basement).

Even the featured new mixes of some of the last album’s successes still push the outer limits. John’s messages however are more tangible this time. Like Atmosphere or Ghostface Killah, many of these songs deal with love and loss. “Nothing Without You” is John’s relationship intimacy at its best. He makes a serenading track that still maintains a Hip-hop backbone with its delivery. John even parodies himself and popular criticism on “Sleeping Giants.” This justifies his art and style well, upon close listening. John appears to have found middle ground between his LA Symphony days and his blossoming solo career. Singing and strange hooks remain at the center of this album, as the last. But as the J-Boogie remix of “Life Goes On” suggests, John’s traditional MC style provides wordplay and a harder delivery than one might expect. Although the remixes take up valuable space amidst the growth, this album really concentrates on the better aspects of John’s debut. Pigeon John Sings the Blues still feels a bit too experimental to be taken seriously, but it’s a step towards bigger conquests.

As John’s lyrical side gets closer to Hip-hop, his music pulls further away in many places. “Matter 101” really incorporates an electronic sensibility and timing that channel Postal Service, a group unlikely to be associated with Hip-hop. This gamble may appease one John fan and offend another. In any event, the experiment draws attention. “Draw Me” really puts Pigeon John in traditional Hip-hop context. A thick mix of singing, rapping, and hard drums allows John to give a moving ode to love, once more. Musically, this album is often slowed down with an excess of intros and talking in some places. Although it may parody and play on the ‘Live’ element, it breaks the mood in places. Like the last album, John is a master with piano and key arrangements, but fails at times to incorporate the tempo and sense of percussion most Hip-Hoppers seek. It’s not unusual to hear melodies played in awkward keys, or up-tempo singing hooks. It’s a unique quality that John appears to be honing, but it’s certainly not for everyone.

This is a nice hold-over until the Quannum work surfaces. The topics are consistent, the imagery is strong, and the emotions are real. Everything else is subjective to the listener. If you seek true Hip-hop experimentation, these are your Blues. This highly artistic, extremely self-indulgent body of work more geared towards the headphones than the car or the party.