X Infinity, by Watsky
Suggested by Rico James
Tim Vine is a comedian.
To be more precise, he’s a one-liner and punning comedian. He delivers gag after gag in a quickfire fashion, courting both guffaws and groans and attaining a high hit rate in each. He’s a little Marmite, truth be told. I quite like him, in moderation, but Sarah can’t stand him. He’s a stalwart of TV comedy shows, as I suppose his routines are easily polished and packaged for a variety of Variety audiences.
One fact about Tim Vine that you may not know: for ten years, he was the Guinness World Record Holder for the most jokes told in one hour (with 499). A joke was only counted if it elicited a laugh from the paying audience in attendance. As the run rate of 500 meant summoning a laugh every seven seconds, that’s pretty hardcore. He was toppled in 2014 by Taylor Goodwin, an Aussie comic inspired by Vine, who notched 550.
While it’s certainly an admirable feat, I can’t imagine it was fulfilling as a spectacle. I reckon there’d be a modicum of forced merriment by the end, with a wide eyed and mirthless crowd wishing that their torment would end soon.
George Watsky is a thirty-something rapper / poet from California who first came to prominence when he became the 2006 Youth Speaks Grand Slam Poetry Champion. This was bolstered by the viral “Pale Kid Raps Fast” viral video on YouTube. George has parlayed these achievements into a six-album alternative hip hop career, of which X Infinity is his fourth. He’s also the World Record Holder for the longest continuous freestyle rap, which he clocked ay 33 hours, 33 minutes and 33 seconds.
X Infinity is an intriguing album. It’s highly polished and produced, and it’s presented in an exacting, clean fashion. There’s nothing raw or fuzzy here. This is exactly correct, as it allows the prodigious vocal talent of Watsky shine through, unobscured by clutter or fog. And Watsky has talent in abundance. His words are considered and poetic, his delivery is metered and modulated, and his intent is always dynamic, and clear as crystal. At times he’s spitting vitriol like the most hardcore gangster, and at others he’s pure softly spoken word poet. With a resumé that’s rather nerdy, you might expect him to be gimmicky or trite, but there’s none of that here.
Personal highlights include Pink Lemonade, in which Watsky piles on Kanye with style, and the superbly quirky Don’t Be Nice, but my standout track is the wonderfully bleak school shooting track Stick to Your Guns.
Musically, the album more than matches Watsky’s creation and verve, offering interesting and intricate pieces that span a number of genres. Combined, they create dense songs that will require multiple listens to unpack and fully appreciate. I’m certainly more than willing to roll my sleeves up and get stuck in.
While it’s not perfect – the collected Lovely Thing Suite seems a little indulgent, and Watsky’s overall tone sometime smacks a little too hard of a juvenile Eminem – X Infinity is a brilliant album from start to finish. I give it a strong 8/10.