It’s hard to believe that this is what’s become of RJD2. Once an unstoppable underground DJ, the turntablist was successful enough that he apparently decided to try his hand as some sort of third-rate Elliott Smith. The clues were there before (2002’s Deadringer sampled Smith’s “I Didn’t Understand”), but 2007’s The Third Hand was merely a warning shot for how committed RJ is to this undercooked pursuit: The Colossus goes even further off the deep end.
In spite of the album’s name, there are plenty of cracks in The Colossus’ armor, like a noticeable lack of RJ singing lead; he relinquishes his position in favor of guest stars and lengthy meandering instrumental portions that contribute to the overall lack of staying power. Frustratingly, there are whiffs of worthwhile beats buried among the blandness. The Indian-flecked album-opener “Let There Be Horns” is as strong an instrumental number as anything RJ’s done before, but the focus is lost completely after “The Glow,” the album’s fifth track. Arguably that song is where everything for RJ’s new vision clicks most: Strident piano and cobwebs of guitar blend to make goosy funk, but then the former DJ still can’t stop accompanying his music with lyrics about eating meat. Everything else is too far from memorable to dredge up. Everyone wants their favorite artists to grow, change, and challenge their audiences, but The Colossus makes a strong case for making sure these pet projects never see the light of day.