Oddly, The Less You Know the Better sounds like it could be a greatest hits album, if such a thing made sense for DJ Shadow. And just as a hits comp wouldn’t make much sense for Shadow, neither does this album. There are nods to Entroducing‘s smooth jazz-funk grooves and beat-heavy hip-hop instrumentals (the stuff his fans seem most stuck on) along-side a decidely mixed bag of guitar mash-ups a la The Private Press, shades of UNKLE (though nothing approaching that Shadow-produced project’s power), disappointing guest raps and nods to Bay Area Hyphy circa The Outsider, and the moody instrumental soundscapes that have been Shadow hallmarks throughout his career. What’s it all add up to?
A kind of mix tape of DJ Shadow’s lesser stylings. Not awful, bot not exactly vital either. The raps are not as silly as the E-40 collaborations on The Outsider (making them ultimately less interesting). Josh Davis (the artist you know and love as DJ Shadow), railed against detractors of The Outsider after that album received a tepid response, telling fans, in not so many words and in no uncertain terms, that he had no intention of repeating Entroducing over and over. Nor should he. But it wasn’t that The Outsider wasn’t a good DJ Shadow album: it just wasn’t a very good album period. And its follow-up, mostly a warmed over rehash of some old tropes, hasn’t added much original, or even very engaging, to Shadow’s repertoire — if that was his goal.
The record is only Davis’s fourth proper album released under the DJ Shadow moniker, though in addition to the aforementioned UNKLE, he’s had his hand in myriad collaborations, from mix tapes with his old turntablist comrade Cut Chemist to David Banner songs. And The Less You Know The Better kicks things off promisingly for those who have been waiting since 1996 for an Entroducing sequel — with a barrage of breakbeats, vocal samples and a manic collage of sound.
The sample that should be echoing at the end of the track but isn’t though is Josh Davis saying, “Repeat Endtroducing over and over again? That was never, ever in the game plan. Fuck that,” because the next sound you hear is crunching guitars in a tuneless loop, mashed against double-time drums.The track is called, optimistically perhaps, “Border Crossing.” Things jump back and forth from there, and never seem to build to very much. Shadow may want to cross back.