Have the Wu-Tang Clan Returned?

[caption id="attachment_4661" align="alignnone" width="630" caption="Wu-Tang Clan perform in Sydney, Australia, October 2009. Photo: Graham Denholm/Getty Images"][/caption]

Though some are billing it as such, Wu-Tang Legendary Weapons is not a "new Wu-Tang album." It's a compilation where core Wu members listed as featured guests and principles GZA and Masta Killa are absent entirely. The tracklisting is instead padded out with third string affiliates and modern day Wu adherents, like Ghostface's white doppleganger Action Bronson.

The lead single, "Only the Rugged Survive," is a solo RZA track, produced not by the Wu Abbott himself but by someone named Noah Rubin, who is doing his best impression of RZA productions circa 1994. "Only the Strong Survive" is a passable redux. RZA does his RZA thing on the mic, lisping freeform about wumours and magwnums but he seems disengaged emotionally. He's a guest on his own record, going through the motions on a beat that goes through motions that he already went through 15 years ago.

This has been the recent legacy of the Wu. As their audience and commercial clout has contracted, their fans have become their principle collaborators. Returns diminish and we're left with some warped interpretation of what Wu-Tang is supposed to sound like instead of the tightly-wound sonics and ideology of vintage Wu. It's 36 Chambers through the reverse end of a kaleidoscope.

Listen to "Only the Rugged Survive" here.