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Posted on May 21st, 2015 (10:00 am) by Michael Negron

On all accounts, Major Lazer should have worked themselves into a corner. The odd conceptual image that the sometimes-group have managed to extend into various mediums is by now fairly limiting, but over the course of their discography they’ve also run the gambit of tricks both common and peculiar: perennially star-studded collaborators (especially if we include Diplo’s side projects, as Major Lazer is essentially him at this point), questionable use of ukuleles, and even satire involving autotuned babies. It should seem obvious that Diplo’s attention is spread thin – though if you need more evidence, consider that this is the first of two Major Lazer releases coming out this year. Compounded with an aging sound, the need for change has never been more immediate. Despite this, Peace is the Mission makes surprising strides in maturing the group’s sound while defying the imperative to alter their formula.

Peace's style is considerably different from previous Major Lazer entries when examined past the surface; sure, it contains the obligatory weed-themed song, but from the first track, “Be Together,” it’s apparent that the album relies much more on electropop than the dancehall Lazer made their name producing. That’s not to say it isn’t prominent on the album - roughly half would more or less fit the description - but Lazer is experimenting more outside their style here than arguably any record previously.

The transition from the album’s pop-oriented starter to “Too Original” showcases Peace's vision at its most realized, achieving a thorough blend of the genres while also including a deep indebtedness to others, in this case carnival music; what should be a jarring transition or a difficult mix of influences is instead seamless. Even the usual name-check track, this time occupied by Ariana Grande on “All My Love,” works surprisingly well and plays to the strengths of all involved. It's at moments like these when the instrumentation is subdued enough (if you can ever call a Lazer track “subdued”) to let the vocals punch through, that Diplo’s talent as a producer as well as a composer is at its most evident.

Unfortunately, this careful consideration and willingness to take risks doesn’t translate to everything. Lazer ardently refuses to let go of certain clichés. Some of them are passive; though the production isn’t quite as crushed as many of their peers, certain songs suffer significantly. The aforementioned “Too Original” is a particular letdown in that department, with audible clipping and an abused dynamic range that practically begs for creative intervention. Active attempts at slipping in tiresome gimmicks are even worse; Lazer throws in confusing and unnecessary rap verses or carbon-copy hooks, often relying on the same mix of crescendo, tempo increase, and upward pitch shift everyone has heard before (check the obnoxious and entirely unnecessary bridge of “Roll the Bass” for a refresher), all seemingly at random. This tendency to rely on accepted dogma when Lazer is innovating by doing the exact opposite is simply baffling.

Major Lazer needed a change, and they needed it bad. Peace offers that at a price, and while that price is well worth admission, their use of common artistic tactics as a crutch is also blindingly obvious. Lazer is at least headed in the right direction, and for that and the novelty of their take on a new sound, it’s an acceptable trade-off. Still, with future releases looming, it’s important to remember that it’s not a trade worth repeating.

Track List:

  1. Be Together (feat. Wild Belle)
  2. Too Original (feat. Elliphant and Jovi Rockwell)
  3. Blaze Up The Fire (feat. Chronixx)
  4. Lean On (feat. MO and DJ Snake)
  5. Powerful (feat. Ellie Goulding & Tarrus Riley)
  6. Light It Up (feat. Nyla)
  7. Roll the Bass
  8. Night Riders (feat. Travis Scott, 2 Chainz, Pusha T and Mad Cobra)
  9. All My Love (feat. Ariana Grande and Michael Montano) [Remix]
Major Lazer - Peace is the Mission
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

66 / 100
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