Jhelli Beam is the ludicrously titled 9th studio effort from Regan Farquhar, a.k.a Busdriver. For those unfamiliar with the artist, Busdriver is known for his "rapid-fire, jazzy, free-association style of hip-hop" (Last.fm, 2009), or perhaps better known for his "unique" style, which has been likened to variously as a Cheshire-cat-on-Ritalin and "something like how Twista might sound after a six-month binge on off-brand candy and Anticon records" (don't get that last one). Suffice to say it may sound like a bit of a put-on, but having seen him perform live, it would seem to be more natural than might be given credit for.
Forgetting for a minute his delivery, Jhelli Beam is in almost equal parts impressive as it is frustrating. Firstly, there is Busdriver's habit of cramming as many words as possible into the shortest time possible, which is usually coupled with a slower, one or two word chorus - e.g. "me time, me time, me time" in... "Me-Time (With The Pulmonary Palimpsest)", "smooches, kisses, smooches, kisses" on "Fishy Face" (great chorus by the way), as well being endemic in his earlier work (see the excellent Avant Core from 2005s Fear of a Black Tangent). While these are all good tracks, they have a degree of kitsch/novelty value due to this fact. What's more, some of the finer tracks on Jhelli Beam are the "slower" (by Busdriver's standards), chorus-driven ones - such as "Happy Insider", "Handfuls Of Sky" and "Quebec And Back", and the feeling that he only does the super-fast stuff 'cos it is his "thing he does" is apparent.
Elsewhere, his style is at times very self-conscious. For instance at the start of "Least Favorite Rapper (Feat. Nocando)", he states, after being introduced by Nocando, "dont say my name though... I don't want people to know I'm on this song". On "Sorry Fuckers", he whines that "club anthems, this is you want, right, club anthems; this is not it, but I'm gonna give it a go, I'm gonna give it a go". While this is not to say the usual hip-hop boasting is in order or even desired, this self-deprecation is at times distracting, although that is quite possibly the point.
Where Jhelli Beam one-ups Busdriver's past work is in the sound department. Having utilized the production skills of Paris Zax, Daedelus, Omid, Daddy Kev (see also The Grouch Sound Advice review), Boom Bip and Danger Mouse in the past, occasionally on the same album, some of his earlier albums can have a less consistent feel to them. Jhelli Beam however overall is far more consistent sounding - though this is not to say that substantial involvement from third parties is not characteristic of Jhelli Beam (see here for an extensive list of production credits), nor that all the songs sound the same. Irregardless [sic], Jhelli Beam is Busdriver's best sounding album yet, in particular "Split Seconds (Between Nannies And Swamis)", "Happy Insider" and "Handfuls Of Sky", while "Me-Time (With The Pulmonary Palimpsest)" gets an honourable mention, even if it is just straight up Mozart. Like, it is actually "Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Major" with Busdriver over the top. Quite something.
Finally, 10 points for whoever can tell me what is on the cover of the album. The best guess so far has been solid gold hot-dog bun filled with a silver frank. But I don't think this is correct. Also - the name? Cannot find a reasonable explanation. Thanks.
Best Lyric: "I used to think Norwegian wood was a Scandinavian adult book store"
- Split Seconds<br/>(Between Nannies And Swamis)
- Me - Time<br/>(With The Pulmonary Palimpsest)
- Handfuls Of Sky
- Scoliosis Jones
- Least Favorite Rapper
- Quebec And Back
- Do The Wop
- World Agape
- Unsafe Sextet/<br/>Gilded Hearts Of Booklovers
- Happy Insider
- Ive Always Known
- Fishy Face
- Sorry Fuckers