Album Review: Major Lazer, Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do


In light of one of the world’s craziest ideas for a half-real concept album comes one of the more fun and plain enjoyable albums of the year… that is, if you enjoy techno infused reggae dancehall and auto-tuned babies (more on that later). I discussed the nostalgic video for the lead track “Hold The Line” a while back, but after hearing the entire album all the way through today I feel like Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do needs a full discourse.

So we all know by now the full story of Major Lazer, right? Well maybe not all of us. (You could just read the bold and get the point, such convenience):

Major Lazer is a Jamaican commando who lost his arm in the secret Zombie War of 1984.  The US military rescued him and repurposed experimental lazers as prosthetic limbs.  Since then Major Lazer has been a hired renegade soldier for a rogue government operating in secrecy underneath the watch of M5 and the CIA. His cover is that of a dancehall night club owner from Trinidad and he enlisted the help of long-time allies and uber-producers, Diplo and Switch, to produce his first LP. His true mission is to protect the world from the dark forces of evil that live just under the surface of a civilized society. He fights vampires and various monsters, parties hard, and has a rocket powered skateboard.

All jokes aside, what the hell is Major Lazer? Well it’s awesome. The team at Mad Decent always have great marketing and art production, and Major Lazer is no exception, it’s actually probably the best example. The album has action figures coming out soon of each member of the story from the above paragraph. It’s like a more danceable and more crazy Gorillaz, as Diplo and Switch lurk in the shadows of musty Jamaican dancehalls much like Alborn did for years in crowded opera halls. But musically Major Lazer is much more than one distinct sound. Due in part to the all-star cast of guests, Guns Don’t Kill People highlights many of the talents that Diplo and Switch enlist on their own. Diplo’s ability to take your breathe away and Switch’s ability to precisely fine tune any remix.

But the songs?? you ask. Well as I alluded to earlier, Major Lazer is a club ready version of jamaican dancehall music. The entire record was actually produced and mixed in the land of Marley, and there are plenty of recurring themes to back up that style as well. See “Mary Jane” featuring Mr. Evil and Mapei. But besides from the excessive amount of marijuana, Major Lazer’s songs are extremely accessible. It’s a genre that takes somewhat of an acquired taste, but tracks like “Hold the Line” and “Cant Stop Now” make Guns Don’t Kill People a slightly under appreciated title. The latter is a slower song than what you would come to expect from Diplo and Switch, but the female vocals courtesy of Jovi Rockwell turn the song into something other-wordly. “Can’t Stop Now” is like a much much better version of those weird half-jamaican songs that that one stoner dude at your favorite party house sometimes turns on. That’s about as complex as I can get with the description, as Major Lazer is at most times impossible to describe.

It’s the jaw dropping power of Diplo, especially on the other-worldy track “Pon De Floor” featuring VYBZ Kartlel that brings the entire album together, and reminds every listener that this is, after all, a Mad Decent production. I’ll skip trying to create a 40 syllable long genre for “Pon De Floor” but tell you that  it’s like a remix of the Drumline opening credits. (If only they had actually enlisted Nick Cannon). Beginning with a full 45 seconds or so of just pure snare, “Pon De Floor” feels somewhat out of place in the album. And it remains to, but it’s the mixing of Diplo and the brains of Switch that make the track mesmerizing. The vocals of some unnamed person explode onto the track. But not in any recognizable way. In that uniquely Diplo way, where the words are twisted, pitch-changed, and rearranged so perfectly that you can’t help but just smile. And dance.

MP3: Major Lazer – “Pon De Floor”

And that’s what makes Guns Don’t Kill People such an infectious album. Diplo and Switch perfectly able to bridge the gap and create music that is both true to it’s roots and yet had that dirty dance floor feel the two are better known for. It’s all together some of the most enjoyable material on Mad Decent to date, a label that’s already extremely successful. Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do will, at the end of the day, turn more people on to this sub-genre of music, which is a success I suppose, but it’s the joys that long time listeners and people in anticipation of this album will find that makes Major Lazer a crazy yet lovable project. The album comes with stickers of the mysterious commando, so buy it just for that, because nothing says cool like a jamaican war vet with Ray Bans and a lazer for an arm.

MP3: Major Lazer – “Hold The Line”

8 out of 10. Get it on iTunes or through the Mad Decent store.


2 Responses to “Album Review: Major Lazer, Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do

  1. […] this summer have been mostly fantastic. The music is, not my amateur writing. The Dirty Projectors, Major Lazer, Phoenix, the list goes on of phenomenal summer albums. I use the term “summer” not […]

  2. lcg…

    […]Album Review: Major Lazer, Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do « MIND INVERSION[…]…

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