In Search of … middle ground

First, an English lesson: If N.E.R.D. really stands for “No One Ever Really Dies”, the trio should use the British spelling of “no one” — Noone Ever Really Dies.

Other, more reputable music publications have already chimed in about In Search of …, and by now, everyone’s heard about how the band released one version of the album, didn’t think it was edgy enough, re-recorded it and released it again.

It’s tempting to write A-B reviews comparing In Search of … v.2 with In Search of … v.1, and for good reason — with the live drums and guitars, the new version of In Search of … really does sound like a totally different album.

Besides, the Neptunes are riding such a wave of hype, it’s easy to get curious about them. More to the point: can people who usually despise hip-hop get into N.E.R.D.?

First, some perspective. In Search of … v.2 has been reluctantly described has a rap-rock album. The term “rap-rock” pretty much conjures up images of blistering metal riffs backing spit-fire freestylers, most of whom are white.

In reality, In Search of … attempts to find a middle ground where it’s neither rap nor rock. Sure, there’s no mistaking the elaborate hip-hop rhythms, and Shay does his share of rapping. But when the guitars kick in on “Lapdance” or “Rock Star Poser”, it’s definitely a raised-fist moment.

By employing live instruments on the album, N.E.R.D. has injected some humanity into hip-hop without having to use a tired heavy metal cliché.

It’s easy to find all this cool and pioneering — if you’ve never listened to Dragon Ash’s Lily of da Valley.

Now, there’s an album that did away with the middle ground and went beyond rap and rock. In spirit, the Neptunes seem to want to accomplish what DJ Bots has been doing for years.

Still, In Search of … has a rock ‘n’ roll spirit that comes through loud and clear. N.E.R.D. hasn’t quite produced the watershed album most American journalists would like you to believe, but they’ve certainly created something special.