The reigning King of steampunk-flavoured chaphop returns! Professor Elemental returns after 2018’s School of Whimsy with another dose of his particular beats and rhymes in the form of Professor Elemental and his Amazing Friends: Part 2 where the Prof recruits other rappers, beatboxers and musicians to come make some musical mayhem with him.
So how did we find it? Not bad. Slightly uneven, but not bad. Definitely a better album than the previous Professor Elemental and his Amazing Friends: Part 1 which didn’t quite scratch that particular chap hop itch for this particular reviewer. Covering 14 tracks and clocking in at a nice round 50 minutes, let’s have a look at what lyrical loveliness is on offer here.
1. ‘Testify’ – A solid opening, a good song to get the room up and bouncing and singing along but a little forgettable in the grand scheme of things.
2. ‘Housebound Hedonist’ – A cute, fun little summer-soaked number, celebrating the delights of just staying indoors and away from all that scratchy sand, horrid sun, wasps, bees and other people. Geeks of the world unite behind this song.
3. ‘The Present’ – Not a fan of this song, the vocals here do nothing for me at all, nor does the annoying wub-wub beat. Skip this and move straight on to the far superior track 4.
4. ‘Tea Total’ – I may be biased, but for me the Prof is at his best with his skits, and there’s not been so many of those in his last few releases. This is a little ditty about prohibition that’s catchy and fun to listen to, one of the highlights of the album (and my personal favourite).
5. ‘Walk in the Sun’ – Continuing his current penchant for commenting on internet culture, this song looks into the lives that we present online and how many people are afraid to reveal anything other than the positive and superficial. A nice sentiment, let down by a somewhat forgettable beat. Move swiftly on to –
6. ‘All I Need’ – Another song where the Prof muses about the things he needs in life and what’s truly important. It’s not a bad song, but it’s not one you’re likely to find yourself humming or singing afterwards.
7. ‘You Remind Me of a Hustle’ – And suddenly we’re into a bit of Barry White-esque smoothness. Well, actually into Van McCoy smooth because this song is the Prof rhyming over a sample of their song, ‘The Hustle’ and it’s not half bad as the Prof busts out his best chat up lines such as “I’m campaigning for your love, baby. I have a pamphlet to hand you.”
8. ‘Make Good Art pt. 3’ – A little discussion of imposter syndrome in rhyming form with the skills of Willie Evans Jr and Jesse Dangerously coming together to create a catchy little number.
9. ‘Snake Oil’ – Another skit song and the title can likely give you a hint about the song. There’s nothing subtle about the song, the lyrics delighting in his not-entirely-legal business of selling bottles of god-knows-what to people too naive to know better.
10. ‘Just Like an Otter’ – Apparently the Prof would really, really like to be reincarnated as an otter. Fair play. Just as long as it’s not that lying, thieving, whoring otter Mudge from the Spellsinger books.
11. ‘Brave New World’ – We’re back onto internet culture, and current politics, specifically the way that everything we do online is monitored, tracked, reported on and analyzed. Hey, hey Prof. VPNs are your friend. A sad fact of being online these days is that often we have no real control over how our data, our very persona, is used.
12. ‘Ps & Qs’ – We’re commenting about not just internet culture but rap culture and general manners here. The title really tells you everything you need to know about this number that celebrates the seemingly-dying art of being polite to people.
13. ‘Devil in the Desert’ – Another story song and the Prof finds himself lost somewhere in the desert and tormented by mirages offering him fame and fortune. Deprived of water, cake and tea. It’s enough to make a man go mad! (It might also be a thinly veiled allegory for how fame is a fleeting thing. Maybe.)
14. ‘Monster’ – Nothing bad can possibly happen with the Prof attempting to Doc Frankenstein this into creating some new sick, monster beats. It won’t lead to his audience transforming into monsters inspired by geek culture. Not at all. But if it DID…. I bagsy turning into Megatron. Just saying.
Another decent release from the Prof, but it’s been a while since we had a real banger like ‘Cup of Brown Joy’, ‘Fighting Trousers’ or ‘All in Together’, or the ludicrously amusing ‘Otto & Victoria’, ‘The Great Race’ or ‘This is my Horse (Show me Yours)’. (Not to be confused with ‘My Lovely Horse’, which is a different universe entirely). His move away from his steampunk roots continues with mixed results. It’s not a bad album, not in any way, but it falls short of being a great one.