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Album review: Lupe Fiasco's 'Lasers'

Monday, March 7, 2011; 10:42 PM

The story of the three-years-in-waiting "Lasers" - its multiple delays, its tormented creator, its eventual crowd-sourced release - has consumed everything around it. For Lupe Fiasco, the technically gifted but preachy Chicago MC, this album is much more about the controversy and less about the music. That's lucky for him, because "Lasers" is mealy-mouthed, disharmonious and forgettable - the embodiment of corporate desire and artistic aspiration colliding messily.

In the three years since Fiasco (born Wasalu Jaco) released his second album, "The Cool," he's recorded many songs. But according to Fiasco, the 12 that made the cut for "Lasers" were assembled by his record label, Atlantic (from whom he has asked for his release), and were often recorded without enthusiasm. It shows.

Fiasco's desire to incite revolution- an often incendiary and wholly unspecific brand of revolution - is at war with the sound of this album, a tetchy melange of stormy synths and overblown choruses. "The Show Goes On" interpolates a sped-up melody from Modest Mouse's "Float On," perhaps the nadir of hokey-indie-rock-meets-hip-hop marriages. Longtime collaborators Soundtrakk and Prolyfic are nowhere to be found here. Instead, vague, unthreatening singers, including MDMA, Sarah Green and Skylar Grey, sing bombastic hooks that are inserted into what sounds like a mediocre album by Bay Area insurrectionists The Coup.

Fiasco's anti-everything stance - against the government, the radio industry, the notion of humor - is suitably riling. There's something bracing about the opening line from his current single, "Words I Never Said": "I really think the war on terror is a bunch of [expletive]." But there is no constancy of thought. Fiasco, who was introduced so memorably on Kanye West's joyous "Touch the Sky," has never recaptured that sense of looseness and fun.

- Sean Fennessey

Recommended track: "All Black Everything"

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