The seven or so tracks Pharrell played vacillated between heavily percussive, rattling drum ‘n’ bass freakouts (“Spazz,” in particular is something fierce) and melody-driven heartbreakers. He copped to the emotional split on the album, mixing one part guitar-driven body rock with one part soft, synth-driven emo&B (think the group’s “Run To the Sun” from In Search Of…)
It sounds closer to that debut than the somewhat maligned Fly Or Die, an interesting experiment with modern rock and lounge-appropriate crooning that unfortunately featured a Good Charlotte collaboration. But the sound is even more aggressive than their well-received debut, and Pharrell emphasized a hunger for “German festival crowds, like 90,000 white boys thrashing.
“…This eventually, somehow, led a soliloquy to “Fred” (as in Durst) whom Pharrell called a genius and credited with bringing loads of white people to rap that otherwise wouldn’t have been interested. As the conversation continued he called “Nookie” “the coolest record at that time.” Sounded extremely dubious at first. But after listening a bit longer, it began to sound like a brilliant alternate history on a band whose songs were derided almost uniformly by critics when they were tearing down the charts. I didn’t quibble with any of Pharrell’s revisionism. Later, he also praised Staind’s Aaron Lewis as an important singer and wished he could somehow resurrect him in the pop landscape. I’d almost completely forgotten about Lewis, a Durst outgrowth who sang sadder and slower songs than his label mentor. “In A Little While” was actually a terrific song and Pharrell may be onto something.
He also mentioned that Timbaland has signed Chris Cornell to his Moseley Music Group imprint, a smart move in this post-OneRepublic age. Imagine what Tim could do for the leather-lunged Cornell, who, though aged, has already been dabbling with Michael Jackson covers in his solo material. All this chatter about bygone hard rock figures seems to mark some sort of reconsideration of a period famously hated in the press (I can recall at least two excellent pieces by Charles Aaron in Spin around the turn of the century.) From what I heard, N¤3¤R¤D isn’t quite a trip back to that time, Pharrell is far too interested in bonkers time signatures and clavinets and Egyptian chords to succumb to such mookery. He’s also a bit of a softie, so songs like the open-hearted “Someday We’ll Laugh About It” immediately make a Limp relaunch impossible. Still, I never expected to be talking about this sort of thing with anyone ever again, let alone Pharrell Williams.