The Internet's "Hive Mind" sounds like a continuation of "Ego Death."
“Grammy bait.” That is the best way to describe The Internet’s latest project, Hive Mind. While the neo-soul/hip-hop collective doesn’t break any new ground, the saying goes “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Hive Mind is exactly what you would expect from The Internet, and that’s a good thing. Although their style is much of the same, their methods have definitely been refined. Perhaps spending time as solo artists allowed each member of The Internet to grow, like a twig from a tree. In essence, the roots and the tree are still the same, but small new growth has made The Internet look and feel bigger and more mature. Syd, Matt Martians, Steve Lacy, Patrick Paige II, and Christopher Smith have created a soulful and riveting follow up to Ego Death that was worth the wait.
Hive Mind begins with “Come Together,” which is the perfect intro for a band getting reacquainted with their audience. Immediately, The Internet hits the sweet spot of obscure lyrics laced in reverb filled harmonies, backed by immaculate instrumentation from the band. It’s almost as if Ego Death never ended, and everyone really does “Come Together.” This intro is the best album opener of all their projects, and that is no easy feat.
Hive Mind continues with the single “Roll (Burbank Funk),” which should sound familiar to fans of the group. It served as the first single off the album, and although the original is a well-produced funky jam, the remix produced by Kaytranada is worth a listen. The next two songs, “Come Over” and “La Di Da” were also released as singles, so the project feels a little manufactured by the time the latter comes to a close. Packing all the singles in after the intro gives listeners the feeling that they’ve heard everything before (which they almost have up to that point), but it allows the album to blossom afterward. “Come Over” has a slow groove, but the epilogue of the track is the best part. Steve Lacy takes control on the beat flip, and quickly reminds the ladies that he’s not about the materialistic life. “La Di Da” is a much more upbeat single, and it forces the listener to sway and nod to the rhythm on reflex. If the Summer sounded like a song, it would be “La Di Da.”
After The Internet gets their singles out of the way, they present their fans with several gems. “Bravo” and “Next Time/Humble Pie” are two great examples of how well this collective melds when they’re functioning at full power. “Bravo” features a deep bass line that is reminiscent of “Special Affair.” The deep licks of the bass shake Syd to life on this banger, and she pours her aurora onto the track. “Next Time/Humble Pie” employs the split-song technique that The Internet has mastered by this point in their career. The first half of the record lures the listener into a sense of elated comfortability, but it’s the latter half that trapped me. “Humble Pie” is one of those “stuck on repeat” moments, and it takes up a bigger cut of the record than the first half. An airy and futuristic instrumental allows Syd to opine about love in an atmosphere that feels like outer space.
While Hive Mind is a masterful piece of work, it does fall short of Ego Death by only a hair. There are moments where you do wish for some type of deviation from The Internet’s regular plan. Yes, their style works, and it would be difficult to become more experimental than they already are without losing the vibe that makes them work so well. Still, it would have been refreshing to hear something that was divergent from Ego Death. Hive Mind is more concise, but other than that, it feels like a continuation of their last project. For the record, sticking with the “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it method” is not a critical mark against The Internet on this project, it’s just a characteristic of the album that is hard to ignore.
Songs like “Mood,” “Stay the Night,” and “Wanna Be” are good records, but they do not shine in the way the rest of the album glistens. Each of those songs sound somewhat manufactured and basic, even if they provide a steady beat that keeps listeners interested. Instead, songs like “Look What You Started,” and “It Gets Better (With Time)” outshine the previous records easily. The latter has a chorus that features one of the best melodies on the album. “Beat Goes On” and “Hold On” close things out strong, packing a one-two punch that erases any memory of the less impressive tracks. “Hold On” lingers on for almost seven minutes, which still doesn’t seem like enough time for the collective to complete the entrancing slow jam. If you love where The Internet has come from, and what they have done in the past, Hive Mind will be an epic experience for you. If you go into the project expecting something new and innovative, you will be disappointed. The Internet delivers exactly what you would expect from them, and The Grammys would be smart to acknowledge that next year.