The Blend’s new album mixes good with bad

Toussaint Morrison  is a dapper looking fellow.  At least the band’s got that going for em. 
Photo courtesy The Blend

Image by Ashley Goetz

Toussaint Morrison is a dapper looking fellow. At least the band’s got that going for ’em. Photo courtesy The Blend

Who: The Blend What: Concert When: 8 p.m. Oct. 3 Where: The Acadia Café The Blend is probably the hardest-working band on the University campus. They are arguably one of the hardest-working bands in all of the Twin Cities. Their posters are stuck to most telephone poles within the Southeast neighborhood; theyâÄôll play anywhere from house parties and front lawns to bars and campus events. Toussaint Morrison, front man and MC of the five-piece outfit, is a shameless promoter and a fixture on the University campus. HeâÄôs a slam poet and an award-winning playwright in addition to his position in The Blend. Given the groupâÄôs steadfast work ethic as well as their résumé of experience, one would hope that The BlendâÄôs new album, âÄúLosing the Game,âÄù would be an impressive reflection of the bandâÄôs organic hip-hop sound. Is it? Sort of, but not really. At its best, âÄúLosing the Game,âÄù is quite good. It has shining moments where it demands to be taken seriously. Yet as a whole, the album doesnâÄôt work in several ways. From the start, the genre of organic hip-hop in general is a very difficult one to perfect. The success of bands like The Roots and even St. PaulâÄôs Heiruspecs may make it seem as if an MC backed by a band is a logical choice, but in truth one is walking a very thin line when choosing a band over a DJ for backing lyricism. Morrison is an effective and talented MC independently. Similarly, the four-piece band that backs him up is also made up of skilled musicians. Math would then have us believe that if added together you got yourself some good stuff, right? Wrong. Screw math. Sometimes Morrison and the band sync up and sound amazing together, but oftentimes it doesnâÄôt mesh. The overpowering and overproduced Metallica-esque guitar sound becomes much too present in several songs and dares to pull The Blend into the dreaded and godless realm of âÄúRap-Rock.âÄù Those words are strong, but it is frustrating to see something that could be good end up being much weaker than it needs to be. The BlendâÄôs loyalty to several different sounds at once, although sometimes refreshing, also frequently becomes confusing and counterintuitive. Oftentimes one doesnâÄôt know whether to shake their booty or rock out. Although crossing genres and breaking paradigms in music is an important and worthwhile endeavor, it is an all-or-nothing choice. Not succeeding completely means failure. Hopefully this is only a minor setback in The BlendâÄôs journey as musicians and they will soon figure out their sound completely. Another glaring problem with âÄúLosing the Game,âÄù is its hip-hop ballads. Ballads within the realm of hip-hop are a very difficult thing to do and sadly The Blend tries and does not quite succeed. MorrisonâÄôs lyrics, on more than one occasion, depart from their stature of strong and clever and fall to the level of redundant, hackneyed and overly sentimental. The bandâÄôs backing MorrisonâÄôs choices are no more effective and the songs fall flat on their face. âÄúLosing the GameâÄù does not succeed in the ways it tries to, but it very clearly shows a bandâÄôs enormous promise. They now need to make a SophieâÄôs choice; there are some aspects of the bandâÄôs sound that may need to be turned down in order to accentuate the others. The Blend works best at its funky, six-shots-of-espresso-caffeinated self. Morrison can spit rhymes faster than Nolan RyanâÄôs speedballs. It is rumored that he has on more than one occasion flawlessly repeated âÄúTwistaâÄù raps at parties. The energy is there, it just needs to be tapped. If people want to be sad they can listen to Nick Drake. He was amazingly good at being sad. People are begging to dance, so give âÄòem what they want.