Review: Rusko – O.M.G.

Rusko – O.M.G. (2010, Mad Decent)

It would seem that every underground dance-related phenomenon needs a CHR makeover at some point.  What I mean is, after a while, someone comes along, polishes the gritty edges and buries the key ingredients beneath a plethora of lyrics most likely about drinking unaffordable tequila and having unprotected sex.

Ten-plus years in the making, the emerging genre of dubstep would appear to be bursting at the seams, eager for a Scott Storch-like figurehead to propel it onto satellite radio. Leave it to Rusko to step forward, ready to sugar-coat the burgeoning movement for our relatives attending middle school.

The key element that sets Rusko apart from his dubstep colleagues is the consistent search for accessibility.  Sure, the samples click with prevalance, the vuvuzela bass buzzes with eardrum-shattering force, but at times the Leeds-born producer creates a vibe built for a past decade, seeking a less experimental, and ultimately lighter, gloss to the finished product.  One could imagine he would be ahead of his time in 1997.

It serves as no surprise, then, that the proper debut LP from Rusko is loaded with club-ready jams.  One listen to O.M.G. and it’s clear why he has been rubbing elbows in the studio with A-listers Rihanna, M.I.A., and Britney Spears – this stuff is fluffier than Flying Lotus, less ominous than Joker.

This is Rusko’s signature angle, and he does it very well.  The album begins abruptly with the highlight “Woo Boost,” featuring sampled interjections, sirens, and glass breaking alongside a pretty stellar, quavering, down-tuned bass line. It’s apparent there’s no journey; you’ve already arrived at the party within the first twenty seconds.

There are also well-executed throwback moments; Rusko emphasizes the “dub” in dubstep with Auto-Tuned vocals on “Rubadub Shakedown” and looped horns on the closer “District Line.”  “Hold On” longs for memories of blaring SWV remixes on the dance floor (beautifully utilizing the talent of Dirty Projectors’ Amber Coffman), and “Kumon Kumon” feels one-half Jilted Generation-era Prodigy, one-half Jock Jams.

Perhaps the rub with O.M.G. is the lack of surprise. Rusko has a plethora of sounds to work with, and we hear the vast majority in the first half.  By the time we’ve reached “Scareware,” there’s nothing left to encourage further listening.  It becomes a hit-or-miss excursion into a stock of similar piano lines and lazer sounds, and the affair back-steps with no direction.

Daft Punk lovers will appreciate “Feels So Real,” a later pick-me-up in the disc akin to “Too Long.”  It becomes discernible Rusko builds strong material around vocals – however, by the time Gucci Mane appears for “Got Da Groove,” even he can’t effectively shove through the clutter of rehashed ideas on the instrumentals preceding him.

A once-over of O.M.G. gives the impression it’s unaccomplished.  Possibly digesting the product bit by bit, in between commercials and Lady Gaga, would help.  Every song incorporates infectious hooks guaranteed to remain with you, which is perfect for Rusko’s bright future as a rising production star on Top 40 radio.  Unfortunately, in the context of an entire album, that formula doesn’t work.  Because of the tired similarities in every catchy melody, the listener is left not with a particular song stuck in their mind, but a confusing, muddled collage of the whole experience.  Occasionally Rusko plays to his strengths, and once the introduction jitters are out of the way, it would serve him well if he did that more the next time around.

Rating: 5

Rusko – Woo Boost

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