Sole and the Skyrider Band - "A Hundred Light Years and Running" (Sole and the Skyrider Band)
Sole’s early records inspired me to predict (loudly, to anyone who happened to be standing around at the moment) that much of the early 21st century’s best punk rock would be delivered in the form of independent hip hop releases. As the musical details of aggro protest music sank further and further into vapid self-parody, leftist hip hop like Sole’s emerged as a more forward-thinking alternative to the fast n’ loud philosophy which insists on rotting tragically in the sun like a melanoma victim too stupid to stay out of the tanning parlor. In addition to top-shelf beats and a bold lyrical criteria, Sole's Selling Live Water (Anticon, 2003) boasted an awareness of two appealing details that a lot of modern rock music – punk or otherwise – are sorely lacking: subtlety and nuance.
The brooding, cinematic sounds of Selling Live Water and its 2005 followup (Live from Rome) are further explored on Sole and the Skyrider Band’s self-titled album, with Anticon’s moody and orchestral sample-laden sound firmly in check. This isn’t the “conscious” hip-hop of the genre’s early ’90s renaissance, nor are these tracks the furiously political utterances of artists like Public Enemy or Paris. Sole’s rhymes are informed by the geopolitical disasters of the modern age, but he has the good taste not to address them too overtly in his lyrics like some kind of beat-mining Brett Gurewitz. This is the sound and sensation of one man’s foreboding traversal of a commercial highway at 4 a.m., the shuttered gloom of big-box warehouse stores and fluorescent mini-malls rising up around him in a grim reckoning of present history.
While the head-nodding groove of the record is comfortable to stand behind, lining it up in comparison to Sole’s previous outings reveals the unfortunate truth that not much artistic growth has been going down behind the scenes. Sole and the Skyrider Band’s self-titled LP fires the same cluster of synapses that previous records have already sufficiently stimulated. All of its tracks, while well-put and effectively delivered, seem to come and go with the same results, and with no real showpiece tunes among them, this particular entry isn’t likely to cast a new light on the corners of our culture that most desperately need it.