The Roots: Undun (Def Jam) 

The Roots' Undun is a character study and album-length epitaph of the fictional Redford Stephens, whose short inner-city life of crime and consequence yields a meditation on fate, mortality and karmic justice.

The band's first concept album arrives with vivid narrative details, moody instrumentals and a documentary-style detachment. Stephens' tragic arc (1974-1999) is presented through the character's own thoughts, a self-aware mix of bravado and doubt. When the score inevitably gets settled, it's the man's own fingerprints that are all over his undoing.

"It's the flight of my fall and it's right on the wall," raps Black Thought on "I Remember," a song that captures the moment in Stephens' story when rise turns to fall. Elsewhere, the lyrics are shot through with imagery of war and allusions that range from the Bible to Greek mythology, from Hammurabi to F.D.R. to the Sudanese genocide.

It's an edgy and somber album, and at first pass, the strengths are the songs that really pop ("Kool On," "The OtherSide"). But close listening reveals more subtle moments when Undun's cohesiveness and continuity shine.

Undun closes with a four-song instrumental suite that goes from somber strings and piano to nightmarish clang and clatter, a sort of chaotic anxiety that draws the listener to a place that even Black Thought's bleakest lyrics can't quite reach.

To call The Roots incomparable at this point is surely redundant, but more than anything the band has recorded before, Undun is an album that couldn't possibly come from anyone else.

More by Eric Swedlund

  • This Ain’t Basketball

    Diverse Tucson quintet unleashes its fifth LP
    • Oct 20, 2016

    Matt and Kim headline new Dusk Music Festival bringing other national and local acts together
    • Oct 13, 2016
  • The Madcap Laughs

    Why onetime Tucsonan Robyn Hitchcock is a two and a half trick pony
    • Oct 6, 2016
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

The Range

Get Your Spooks On for a Halloweekend at Hotel Congress

In the Flesh: Howe Gelb's 60th B-day Bash at the Rialto Theater

Song of the Day: 'Cosmic Love Song No. 23' by Louise Le Hir

More »

Latest in Rhythm & Views

  • Rhythm & Views

    American Monoxide “In Flight Mode” (People In A Position To Know)
    • Dec 18, 2014
  • Rhythm & Views

    Wight Lhite “Beyond the Satellites” (Paisley Shirt Records)
    • Dec 11, 2014
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Noise Annoys

    Mute Swan and the Curse of Local Hype
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • Honky Tonk Girl

    How this Tucson 19-year-old might trip the country electric
    • Sep 29, 2016
  • More »

Facebook Activity

© 2016 Tucson Weekly | 7225 Mona Lisa Rd. Ste. 125, Tucson AZ 85741 | (520) 797-4384 | Powered by Foundation