By Giles Turnbull
With a title like Dragon Slayer, you may be expecting one of two extremes. If your point of reference is stories of knights in shining armor, that would be swashbuckling songs of a hero vanquishing fire-breathing mythical monsters; if you turn to the Urban Dictionary, you’re more likely to expect an album packed with misogynistic stereotypical (c)rap.
Either way you might be a little taken aback. Dragon Slayer, Pigeon John’s latest album in a 10-year career, is decidedly from the easy listening side of the hip-hop tracks. Instead of brazen in-your-face fast-flowing rhetoric, there are warm and fuzzy words, and a lot of unthreatening indie-spirited music.
Pigeon John steps in and out, throwing around some of his characteristically clever ways of looking at the comings and goings of daily life. For a renowned showman, Dragon Slayer is a much more laid back look at the world. Where younger whippersnappers might point to the volume of the music system in their ride, Pigeon John is high on the buttery softness of his new truck’s seats. The sultry musings of “So Gangster” are the sounds of a gangster at ease, enjoying his coffee, rather than the common-or-garden drugs ‘n’ guns.
There’s been a move away from typical cut and spliced samples, and towards real instruments and original material. It almost works, though at the risk of sounding a little too commercial, and making Pigeon John seem more like a cameo role. It works in the moments where his contributions easily raise a smile, and it’s less successful where it drops into run-of-the-mill ideas that have been used to death in the genre for years.
There’s enough of Pigeon John’s character still in this album to make it worth a listen for hardcore fans, and its mellow attitude, and the catchiness of tracks like “The Bomb”, already grabbed by VW for the Jetta commercial, will appeal to many less-gangster fans.
Pigeon John is on tour with DJ Shadow, playing The Loft on November 9.