The Phantom Tollbooth

Artist: Concrete
Label: doubleplusungood records
Time: 56:29
Exit: Ska. Enter: Rapcore. I have to say that the uprising of this style is much more enjoyable than the rise and fall of ska, and hopefully not as trendy. Anyway, this isn't an editorial on styles, it's a review. And although I somewhat enjoyed this "rap/hardcore" album, I wish they could have made something more...concrete.
First of all, these aren't novices, (having two full length tapes independently produced), but there is still much room to grow. I heard a couple of grooves that are ear worthy, but for the most part I'd have to say that this album was too shallow for my taste. They are just missing the power that comes with this style.

They try to sound "hard" but because of  production, and an "anything but tight band", they come off weak. I felt like they were trying to fit in this genre instead of letting the style come naturally. They used to be a hardcore group, and after hearing bits and pieces of it on this album, it makes me wish that they would've focused more on that than the rap. Music is supposed to fit you, not the other way around, and trying to force a style will show through in the music and leave our ears ringing with an empty sound.
Some of Concrete's songs would have nice little runs but there were too many holes in the music which would make the song sound hollow. Occasional mess-ups in the instrumentation would throw the song off line for half a second and would ruin the groove. I guess the best word to describe the music would be "bare."
But having said that; there was just something about them that I couldn't help but like. Maybe it was their sound clips from "Princess Bride", or the "hidden track", or the "Korn" rip off, or more likely, it was their no-nonsense approach to the Word.  I give them much respect for the Spirit-led lyrics that don't back off, back up, or back track. Thanks to the lyrics, the lazy musicianship was almost balanced out. I said "almost."
The best track is "SKD" (steal kill and destroy). It starts off with an electronic intro that sounds like one-half Ron D Core and the other half is the bass line from Seinfield, then it jumps back into the screaming and rhyming. Nothing new, but still enjoyable.
So to cap it off, every song is layered with scriptures, encouragement, and salvation. But even still, I don't think that those can save this album from being labeled as nothing more than "something that shows promise".
Justin W. Jones 8/26/99