Album: The Neptunes

The Neptunes Present ... Clones, Arista
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The Independent Culture

The story so far: having established their reputation through production work for the likes of Britney, Jay-Z, P Diddy, NSync and Ol' Dirty Bastard, the nu-wave R&B backroom boys Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo opted to change their name from The Neptunes to N*E*R*D (No One Ever Really Dies) when it came to recording their own album, In Search of...; then, no sooner had it been released than they decided to delete it forthwith and re-record the entire thing with "proper" instruments (read: heavy guitar riffs), thus ensuring the album fell between a multitude of stools and disappeared without trace. Chad and Pharrell's career course appears no more settled now, with the latter apparently dead set on establishing himself as a solo artist - he grabs every opportunity here to appear as guest vocalist on tracks featuring such as Busta Rhymes and Dirt McGirt (Ol' Dirty's latest alias), and persuades Jay-Z to fulfil a similar function on his own single, "Frontin'", which reveals Pharrell to have a fragile, inveigling falsetto. This compilation affirms the duo's current production pre-eminence, with Ludacris, Kelis, Snoop Dogg, Nas and Nelly all lining up for Neptunisation, a process that usually involves a stripped-down beat, an electro twitch or two, and little more besides. It works best with the more characterful voices and eccentric verbalists - Busta is outstanding on the booty anthem "Light Your A** on Fire". A fine selection on the whole, though, but spoilt by the bizarre inclusion of two incongruent rock-band tracks (by Spymob and The High Speed Scene), which The Neptunes didn't even produce.