It’s impossible to say Interpol fans didn’t see a RZA-Paul Banks collaboration coming a mile away. Not only have the two been working together for half a decade, Paul Banks’ solo career leans heavily on hip-hop influences, as made evident on his 2013 mixtape Everybody On My Dick Like They Supposed To Be.
But now that their debut, Anything But Words, is finally here, the two, known collectively as Banks & Steelz, act like amateurs rather than genre leaders, emulating the popular bits of their previous sounds and incorporating newer mainstream trends to create a relatively uneventful LP.
Dependent solely on the names of the band’s members, Anything But Words could be a revival of rap rock, a genre that, with the exception of Rage Against the Machine, never lived up to its potential. Considering its five years in the making, this LP should have more than the necessary time to craft an enjoyable listen.
With any collaboration, especially one of this magnitude, there’s an expected sense of teamwork. Although the album may have moments where the two come together to create one fluid motion, most songs feel like fan-made mashups rather than fully fleshed out songs.
The album kicks off with, “Giant,” a song that meanders aimlessly during RZA’s verses and realigns itself with a tale of the classic David and Goliath story. The track is intended to be a braggadocios and asserting moment, establishing Banks & Steelz as a premier duo. Instead, the track’s verses ramble without any purpose with bars such as “See me like milk and Oreos / Dipped inside the audio.” RZA was never the most effective rapper, but he spends the entirety of his mic time on “Giant” setting up one-liners and then delivering them to shakey results. After the novelty of this wears away, “Giant” is an incredibly boring experience.
If you don’t turn the album off after the opener, the following five tracks have an almost identical pattern — RZA loses his way in the lyrics, the choruses attempt to become anthemic, rinse and repeat. Even a surprising Florence Welch feature on the album’s fifth track, “Wild Season,” can’t raise the bar.
It’s not until “Conceal” that Banks and RZA break out for a momentary glimmer of hope, premiering an eclectic, free-flowing beat that makes the song worth a listen. The guitar solo by Banks at the end of the song heightens the excitement, only for it to fade away leaving the listener wanting more.
The remaining five songs on Anything But Words never reach the level of “Conceal.” By the end of one listen, the album feels more like a grasp at fame and success than a genuine passion project.
After all, Banks hasn’t released a lauded project since 2004, and you’d have to go back even further to 1997 to find RZA’s last relevant album. Although the two stand as pillars of their respective genres, together they don’t make good music — Anything But Words is an uneventful listen and pales in comparison to the energy and empowered music of rap rock giants such as Rage Against the Machine and 311. Whether or not the two have completely stalled artistically is beyond this album, but based solely on Anything But Words, Banks & Steelz isn’t worth your time.