I'm man enough to admit there are times when I simply can't weigh an artist's talent on music alone. This is one of those moments.
I'm not 100-percent certain where N.E.R.D. did me wrong, but it might have to do with their name. I despise groups with acronyms for words (MSTRKRFT = Master-Kraft), words for acronyms (“NERD” = N-E-R-D) or both (MGMT = Management and M-G-M-T), and I refuse to get hooked on their phonics.
Or maybe I'm just still pissed about waiting almost 90 minutes for N.E.R.D. to take the stage at South by Southwest in March. Hip-hop Post-It Note: it takes about 90 seconds to set up turntables and plug in microphones.
Either way, I've passed the task of critiquing N.E.R.D. to some authorities on the subject. But these aren't your average nerds. Only the best:Is “No-one Ever Really Dies” (N.E.R.D.) a scientifically accurate statement?
Bill Gates: It's not entirely true. Only poor people die.
Professor Frink from The Simpsons: Elementary chaos theory tells us that all robots will eventually turn against their masters and run amok in an orgy of blood, with the kicking and the hurting and the shoving and the biting with the metal teeth.
Mr. Spock: Yeah, immortality (or “Katra”) is one of the fringe benefits of being Vulcan. It almost makes up for the fact that my ears and eyebrows make me look like a drag queen from Santa's workshop.
Booger from Revenge of the Nerds: [Picking his nose] Wait. What was the question?
Stephen Hawking: I know what you're doing, bastard. You're trying to get cheap laughs because my voice sounds like the Moviefone guy bumped uglies with ColecoVision. I'm a cripple for chrissakes.
What? I would never stoop that low.
Hawking: Sure. And I'm a gold-medal favorite in Beijing. Besides, I traded in my old voice synthesizer for one that sounds more British. Chicks dig accents.
Is “Lapdance” still N.E.R.D.'s best song and, more importantly, have you ever had a lap dance yourself?
Gates: “Spaz” is pretty good in that new Microsoft Zune commercial. I haven't had a lap dance, but I do use the “Barely Legal Asian Dolls” escort agency in Seattle for similar services.
Frink: I'm uncomfortable with all the women with the touching and the sweating and the boo-bies.
Spock: There was this one time, back in stardate 3417.3, when I went with Kirk and McCoy to this strip club on Omicron Ceti III. We got tore up on Cuervo, I mean I was wasted. I gave this stripper the Vulcan Death Grip and we ended up having to beam her corpse into space. But, yeah, that song's pretty sweet.
Booger: [Still picking his nose] Huh?
Hawking: Please. Every dance I have is a lap dance. Ask any more stupid questions and I'll give you an advance copy of my new book, A Brief History of My Foot in Your Ass.In astronomical terms, how would you rate N.E.R.D.'s performance on the “Glow in the Dark” tour with Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco and Rihanna?
Gates: I prefer to give my response in binary code. I'd say the music was 010001001, but their stage presence was only 10011001.
Frink: Aw, for glaven out loud. They're clearly a pulsar wind nebula.
Spock: It's highly illogical to think N.E.R.D. could even carry Kanye's jockstrap. They're a black hole.
Booger: Brraaaaaaaap. Ugh, sorry. Pabst gives me the burps.
Hawking: Mmmmm, Rihanna. I'd like to show her The Hawk, if you get my drift, maybe give her a supernova on the small of her back. You know what I'm talking about. Which nerd icon would you most closely associate with N.E.R.D.?
Gates: Steve Urkel. He's black, right?
Frink: I'm reminded of the time there was trouble at the lab, with the running and the exploding and the crying when the monkeys stole my glasses and the wah-ah-ah. Ahem. I'd say Chewbacca. He's accessible but also a little strange.
Spock: Screech. Both heighten your sensory levels, but they also have an enigmatic streak that suggests they'd make a really raunchy sex tape.
Booger: [Resumes nose-picking] Sorry, chief. You lost me again.
Hawking: The music is adventurous and sexy like Lara Croft. I'd raid her tomb, if you feel me. Finally, give me your thoughts on N.E.R.D.'s latest album, Seeing Sounds.
Gates: It's trying to be Windows Vista but sounds too much like Windows 2000.
Frink: Well, sure, the Frinkiac-7 looks impressive. But I predict that within 100 years, it will be 10,000 times more powerful and only the five richest kings of Europe will own one, mw-hurgn-whey. So the album's good, but it could've been better.
Spock: I like “Everybody Nose,” “Spaz” and “Anti-Matter,” but I hate it when they channel alt-rock and let Pharrell sing. However, they're never dull, so I foresee the album having a long and prosperous life. Then again, I'm only half human.
Booger: [Clears throat] N.E.R.D. is among the larger Promethean forces fueling the fractal growth of fans' shuffling feet, morphing endlessly overlapping ideas and passages into subtly shifting rhythmic textures of holographic complexity that metabolize quickly while infusing even the most cinematic, atonal explorations with hardline grooves.
Hawking: Yeah, what he said. N.E.R.D. plays at 8 p.m. Sunday, July 20, at House of Blues. 619-299-BLUE. www.myspace.com/nerdofficial