NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

'Hive Mind' Mixes Funk, Disco And Neo-Soul, Courtesy Of The Internet


This is FRESH AIR. The band called The Internet released an album in 2015 called "Ego Death" that was nominated for a Grammy. The quintet, which specializes in danceable R&B, went on hiatus soon after that, agreeing that each member would release a solo project before reforming. Each of them did just that with varying degrees of success. Now the band is back with a new album, its fourth, called "Hive Mind." And rock critic Ken Tucker says he's glad they got back together.


THE INTERNET: (Singing) You were nothing but a moment, a face. You were only five minutes away. Should've met you when I had the chance 'cause I'll probably never see you again.

KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: That is the most typical sound of The Internet on this new album "Hive Mind" - a cool, verging-on-chilly lead vocal as the music surges and pulses, a mixture of funk, disco and neo-soul. There are jazz chord changes here and there. And at a time when much of our most popular music is digital pop, this is a combination of both digitally processed sounds and music played by humans on old-fashioned instruments like the guitar.


THE INTERNET: (Singing) There's another new love. I know you're trying to do right. But maybe we should stay cooped up like we don't know what moonlight is. Lately I've been going crazy, begging you stay 'cause I just want you safe. Anger, all the misbehavior got you feeling anxious all the time. Maybe you should stay the night. Maybe you should stay the night.

TUCKER: The Internet emerged from the Los Angeles music collective Odd Future, whose most famous members are probably Tyler the Creator and Frank Ocean. Lead singer Sydney Bennett, who used to call herself Syd Tha Kid and now goes simply by Syd, was Odd Future's sound engineer. She and keyboardist Matthew Martin, who uses the name Matt Martians, formed the core of The Internet. On the new album, guitarist Steve Lacy takes on a prominent role. His guitar and bass are all over the album. And his occasional lead vocals are a nice contrast to Syd's.


THE INTERNET: (Singing) Listen to your heart. Listen to your heart. What's it saying? Star shine so bright. Hear it in your heart. They're up so high. Hear it in your heart. I want to fly. Check your voicemail. Hear your heart go roll, roll, roll.

TUCKER: That's Roll (Burbank Funk), the first single off the album. On another song called "Come Over," Syd tries to tempt an object of her desire to come over to her house late at night for a tryst. I can turn you on with my dirty mind, she says. And I doubt I'm the only one who thinks she's intentionally quoting the title of Prince's 1980 album "Dirty Mind."


THE INTERNET: (Singing) Know you wrong. But, sure, you right. Home alone for the night. I can turn you on with my dirty mind. Say I won't. Worth a try. Puppy love, butterflies made you blush. You made me smile. What you want? Baby, you decide. Why we grown, wasting time?

TUCKER: The low-boil funkiness on that song "Come Over" is typical of "Hive Mind," an album that sounds influenced by a variety of precursors - the disco band Chic, the guitar playing of Ernie Isley of The Isley Brothers, the layered vocals and dense instrumentation of Earth, Wind and Fire. Most of the songs on "Hive Mind" stake out a medium tempo, which allows Syd's singing to take on a conversational rhythm. Listen to the way her voice emerges from the slamming beat of the drums on "Bravo." She muses about the way a lover puts on a good front, trying to disguise less than noble behavior.


THE INTERNET: (Singing) My love, I thought you knew. This karma thing don't pick and choose. So every time that you perform, I learn just a little more. What a waste, babe. What a shame. You were playing games. Words comes out your mouth. Look around. What a mess you made. Watching from the crowd, it's astounding. You're on your way. Thought that you had changed. I found out it's just a role you play. Well, bravo, baby. Bravo, baby, oh.

TUCKER: In the world of The Internet, it's always midnight. People are deciding whether to go out to a club or stay in. Adventures can be determined by a feeling of loneliness or by receiving an intriguing text. The superficial cool one presents to the world melts in the warmth of one-on-one connection. Restless, always searching for the right mood, this is music for modern lovers who are too smart to settle for less.

GROSS: Ken Tucker is critic-at-large for Yahoo TV. Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, we'll talk about President Trump's billionaire friend who helped connect Trump to Arab princes. My guest will be David Kirkpatrick, a New York Times international correspondent based in London. We'll also discuss his new book about covering the Egyptian revolution and subsequent coup when Kirkpatrick was Cairo bureau chief. It's also about the Obama administration's response and the mixed messages it sent. I hope you'll join us.

FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our senior producer is Roberta Shorrock. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham. Our associate producer of digital media as Molly Seavy-Nesper. Thea Chaloner directed today's show. Thanks to Dave Davies for hosting last week while I was on vacation. I'm Terry Gross.


THE INTERNET: (Singing) They going to get us to come together. They going to get us to come together. They going to get us to come together. They going to get us to come together. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ken Tucker reviews rock, country, hip-hop and pop music for Fresh Air. He is a cultural critic who has been the editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly, and a film critic for New York Magazine. His work has won two National Magazine Awards and two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards. He has written book reviews for The New York Times Book Review and other publications.