The Internet tests new musical waters with ‘Hive Mind’

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Columbia Records

Our parents always worried about us getting addicted to the internet, but with the band of the same name’s summer release of Hive Mind, their greatest fears might come true.

Three years after the release of their Grammy-nominated album Ego Death, soul revolutionaries The Internet returned to the music scene on Friday, with their fourth studio album Hive Mind. Hive Mind comes after a period of solo projects from all five members of the group: Sydney Bennett, oftentimes shortened to Syd, Matt Martians, Steve Lacy, Patrick Paige II and Christopher Smith. With individual interests knocked out, the five-member trip-hop band returned to the studio in an effort to push their sound in a different direction. With 13 new tracks, The Internet successfully trades their hip-hop soul sounds for more uplifting, rhythmic funk, but this switch left well-written lyrics out of the picture.

Musically, The Internet has successfully cut off all ties from the hip-hop collective Odd Future (OF) with this fresh release. Every member except Lacy was either a member or touring musician for OF before forming The Internet. Since its formation in 2011, The Internet has worked to build a musical divide between them and Odd Future, and Hive Mind is the final stone in the structure. Their first two albums, Purple Naked Ladies and Feel Good, are fully composed of neo-soul vibes uncharacteristic of Odd Future. However, The Internet failed to mask Odd Future’s avant-garde, hip-hop elements in these two projects. Their third album, Ego Death, showcased more of the band’s original sounds, but tiny pieces of Odd Future-esque influence still prevailed, with Odd Future leader Tyler, the Creator even featuring on the first half of their kickback anthem “Palace/Curse.” But with one listen of Hive Mind’s more nostalgic grooves like “Stay the Night” and “It Gets Better (With Time)” where Syd’s voices aches with conflicting emotions, no connection between the two groups can even be made.

In numerous interviews, The Internet emphasized their goal to take on a different music style in each album. Hive Mind accomplishes just that, leaving their recognizable melodies known to mix shoulder-shaking groove with modern music engineering. Matt Martians’ laidback chimes from the keyboard, Syd’s cheerful serenades, Lacy’s nostalgic Motown-esque guitar solos, Paige’s polished rhythms on bass, and Smith’s subtly impactful performances on drums all allow Hive Mind to emit '70s, neo-soul energy. In songs ranging from their Soul Train invitation-deserving “Roll (Burbank Funk)” to the repetitive seven-minute lullaby “Hold On.” The Internet managed to complete a task that many groups can’t: showcase their individual strengths without outshining one another.

However, the band channeled too much energy into creating a new sound and not enough into the writing, for their well-crafted melodies accompany empty, underwhelming lyrics. Hive Mind’s subject matter can easily be lumped into two categories: commonplace, relationship troubles and indifferent, carefree partying. The album is jam-packed with dull, unoriginal cliches such as one found in “Come Over”: “I’ll bring the champagne / Don’t turn me down babe.” Such lyrics leave crucial details out the musical picture The Internet attempts to paint, leaving listeners aching for more clarity.

In Hive Mind’s ninth track, Syd’s fragile voice assures us that “It gets better with time” — The Internet stands as a testament to that fact. The group got off to a disarrayed, unoriginal start in 2011 with Purple Naked Ladies, but they’ve used their latest, groovy project not only as an experiment but also as a way to showcase their musical maturity and versatility. Once these summer tracks are overplayed, we can only wait with anticipation for what music style they’ll master in future projects — hopefully without leaving any important musical aspects out the picture.

Rating: 8/10