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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Album review: Major Lazer - Peace Is the Mission

Major Lazer may have spawned the biggest hit of Diplo's career - but the big question is if the alias need exist any longer.
Major Lazer’s Diplo, left, and DJ Switch, who has left the duo. Courtesy Mad Decent / FOX
Major Lazer’s Diplo, left, and DJ Switch, who has left the duo. Courtesy Mad Decent / FOX

Major Lazer

Peace Is the Mission

Mad Decent

Two stars

It’s been a big year for Diplo. In February, the celeb producer (credits include Britney and Beyoncé) dropped an album as one half of Jack Ü, a duo with dubstep wunderkind Skrillex that spawned both DJs’ first Billboard hit, the Justin Bieber vehicle Where Are Ü Now. A month later, Madonna released Rebel Heart, featuring five Diplo productions.

Then Diplo made it a hat-trick, scoring another smash with Lean On, a collaboration with France’s DJ Snake and Danish singer MØ, released under his Major Lazer moniker. Now that single has an album.

It’s a weird situation. Diplo started Major Lazer as a cartoon duo with UK DJ Switch, after the pair worked together (and broke out together) on records for M.I.A. Their 2009 debut Guns Don’t Kill People... Lazers Do was a genuine departure for both – an electronic dance hall-inspired project starring Jamaican guest artists on every tune.

Switch quit two years later. Major Lazer is not a collaboration anymore. It’s not (really) dance hall anymore. Diplo may have just scored his biggest hit under the brand, but one wonders if the Major Lazer alias need exist anymore.

Whatever name he’s working under, Diplo has friends he can call and the schizophrenic, scattershot Peace Is the Mission is packed with guests.

Night Riders alone features four – Travi$ Scott, 2 Chainz, Pusha T and Mad Cobra, all spitting rhymes over a moody urban groove, an overbearing car crash of egos and approaches. It’s a world away from the polished balladry of Powerful which, despite sounding like it was written for Kelly Clarkson, Ellie Goulding and Tarrus Riley make their own. Brooding trap-infused opener Be Together is dealt heaps of streetwise sass from Wild Belle’s Natalie Bergman.

In these familiar electro-urban-pop surroundings, the few dance hall-infused moments – the Major Lazer USP – stand out like shipwrecked infidels. The ska-upbeats of Roll the Bass and Too Original both tastelessly dissipate into reductive, glowstick-waving, side-chain noise.

At little over a half-hour in length, the album is exhausting, jumping from EDM noise and urban beats to electro-ballads and Jamaican grooves; disorientating at times, plain ugly at others. No track exceeds four minutes. Nothing sticks. There’s no unifying core to tie this disparate set of sounds together.

At this stage of his career, Diplo is more in need of an alias than ever – a vehicle to release the music closer to his heart, but further from radio sensibilities. Major Lazer could, should – indeed was – such a vehicle. But Peace Is the Mission needs no covert designation to disguise what is, at essence, just another chart-hugging Diplo release. And a messy, unfocused, egotistical one at that.

rgarratt@thenational.ae

Updated: June 1, 2015 04:00 AM

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