Considering how celebrated the Wu-Tang Clan are, it seems odd that The Swarm, an album credited to Wu-Tang Killa Bees, arrived in stores with very little fanfare. The only Wu spin-off album that bears the group's name -- as opposed to releases from Cappadonna, Killah Priest, Sunz Of Man, the list goes on -- The Swarm ought to be an event, right?
The stealthy fashion in which this record appeared in stores probably isn't an accident. With its Photoshop-y cover and stamp declaring "All New Songs," The Swarm seems thrown together and probably amounts to little more than a left-overs collection, introducing newer members of the extended Wu family and keeping the Clan on the minds of their fans.
What it's not is the next Wu-Tang record.
The Swarm is most definitely a hodge-podge. Produced by various Wu-associates -- including five tracks by the RZA -- the sound is in line with what you'd expect: eerie minor-key melodies on piano or strings, driven by loping, paranoid beats.
There's not much in the way of innovation here, though there are some unusual touches. Naturally, it's RZA who pulls the tricks out of his hat. His "And Justice for All," with raps by Bobby Digital with Killarmy and Method Man, has a truly disconcerting backing track, with an off-center kind of mutant-accordion sound alongside those signature beats and piano. The Sunz Of Man track, "Concrete Jungle," plays with classic '80s electro-pop synth-strings, skewing the beat just a touch.
Remedy's "Never Again" is the first anti-Holocaust rap I've ever heard, and the mournful Hebrew singing underneath the track works better than you'd imagine.
But for the most part, The Swarm is pretty forgettable -- it's not terrible, but it never approaches the heights, or takes the risks, that have made the Wu-Tang Clan so successful in the past. Consider The Swarm a midnight snack to tide you over until the next big, expertly prepared Wu-Tang meal.