Buck 65 - 20 Odd Years
Buck 65’s voice is both his greatest strength and his biggest weakness. It’s an awesome voice, for sure – deep and distinct, gravelly and melodic at the same time – but listening to an entire album of it can be wearying. He’s a white-boy rapper minus the hip-hop, instead speaking earnestly and urgently over folk guitars and indie-rock electronics. Sometimes his vocals speed up or slow down ever so slightly, but mostly it’s just the same spoken-word performance over and over. And that can get real boring real quick.
That said, Buck 65 is one of those artists whose shtick you either go with or don’t, so fans aren’t likely to care. He does his Buck 65 thing and he does it well. The title 20 Odd Years is a nod to his two decades in the music business. He’s yet to become a breakout success outside of Canada, but audiences like him enough that he’s been able to make records and work in the industry for most of his adult life. Good for him.
His lyrics kind of suck, though. With a focus on phonetics and rhythm, the words themselves never seem to matter all that much, and the end result is usually a sub-Beck level of vapid and cool. The opener on 20 Odd Years, ‘Superstars Don’t Love,’ is a decent song if you ignore the repeated mentions of Michael Jackson.
Buck 65 (or Rich Terfry, to CBC 2 listeners) invites a slew of guest vocalists to liven up the proceedings. French singers Olivia Ruiz and Marie-Pierre Arthur do an absolute beautiful job on ‘Tears of Your Heart’ and ‘Final Approach,’ respectively. John Southworth makes ‘BCC’ one of the album’s standout tracks. And Gord Downie appears on ‘Whispers of the Waves,’ which, in 2011, is kind of like hearing your dad sing at the dinner table: even if he does an amazing job, it’s still a little awkward and embarrassing.
Despite the album’s numerous bright spots – ‘Lights Out’ is probably the best song presented here – the momentum is usually stopped dead in its tracks by Buck 65’s inane lyrics and monotonous delivery. He actually sings, fleetingly, on ‘Tears of Your Heart,’ ‘Final Approach,’ and the idiotic ‘Zombie Delight,’ which is a pleasant surprise, but not enough to rescue any of those songs from the booming thud of his vocals.
Two decades in the business is admirable, but Buck 65 seems, at best, a candidate for the occasional mix-tape inclusion as opposed to someone whose album you need to listen to all the way through (and if that’s what you’re looking for, go back to 2005’s Secret House Against the World). 20 Odd Years is a decent album and Buck 65 fans won’t be disappointed, but everybody else will be pretty meh about it.
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