Joint Reviews explore the space where culture and weed intersect, rejecting holier-than-thou art critiques. Naturally, everything we review gets a little better.
In the months leading up to the release of Caracal, Disclosure made a statement that ultimately proved extremely telling: “There’s not any really club music on this one. It’s all very club-influenced, because of the beats, but every song is like ‘Latch’ or ‘White Noise’ — a fully structured pop song.”
When I heard this, a sinking feeling crept into my gut—Not any club music? Every song is a pop song? Suddenly, my reservations about Disclosure’s musical path felt validated.
We even tweeted about it in July and used the hashtag #bummer. This artist made me feel actual feelings, and I don’t normally feel those.
— Millennial Undergrnd (@Millennial_UG) July 6, 2015
And yet I still held out hope. Even through five advance singles and an album preview “mini mix,” I reserved judgement. Note: there are 11 tracks on the album and I heard each before it even dropped; that didn’t build hype, it decimated it.
Effectively, all of the butterfly-inducing anticipation after 2013’s masterful Settle disappeared, sucked away by an overdrawn lead-up to a—here it is, I’m saying it—subpar record.
Phew. There. Caracal is a major disappointment. Now let’s chill for a moment and (in the spirit of Joint Reviews) let some weed relax me, before I feel pesky feelings again. I prefer to keep things… mellow, man.
Caracal x Wi-Fi
I recalled the first time I heard Settle, as smoke drifts up from a bowl filled with Wi-Fi (short for White Fire OG; a spicy, energetic sativa). Disclosure’s debut record was so immediately affecting, I couldn’t sit down while listening to it. It stirred something in my chest that just made me want to move. It was raw energy.
Even today, Settle retains that immediacy from the start with “When a Fire Starts to Burn,” which builds from a random, strange voice sample that could never be found on the ultra-polished Caracal.
Instead, Disclosure’s latest record begins with “Nocturnal,” a feature with the biggest name in pop music right now, The Weeknd. It’s actually one of the better tracks on the album, the sinister synths dance around my head as I stop asking myself “am I high?” and admit that, “yes, I am high.” But still, it isn’t particularly memorable.
The same applies to “Omen” the follow-up to Disclosure’s breakout Sam Smith track, “Latch.” Keep in mind, I’ve heard this song dozens of times and it already sounds stale. “Latch” still makes me sing along, even after constant radio play.
On Caracal, club bangers are replaced with mid-tempo dance pop—a genre descriptor I would use for just about every fucking half-assed pop song in 2015; it’s music that doesn’t make you dance, but kind of hints at it as a possibility.
So it’s no wonder that Disclosure no longer sound new and exciting. They sound like everyone else. Or maybe, everyone else sounds like them.
Regardless, “Willing & Able,” “Jaded,” “Good Intentions,” “Superego,” and “Magnets” (featuring Lorde) all blur into this lukewarm R&B electronic minutia that serves as the body of the record. And despite my sativa head-rush and good vibes, I end up sitting arms-crossed thinking about how I’m going to do the dishes while stoned.
Settle on the other hand, makes me think about sex. Hot, sweaty, passionate, oh-my-God sex.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that Caracal is a bad album. It’s not. It’s just not a good album. It lacks the deep cuts, the creative risks, and the intensity that made Settle so successful. I couldn’t even imagine an adventurous track like “Grab Her!” or “Stimulation” on this album.
Disclosure replaced AlunaGeorge, London Grammar, and Jessie Ware with The Weeknd, Miguel, and Lorde, and now slots massive stadium sets instead of theater shows. That’s a testament to their success, but in the process, Disclosure got so goddamn tame.
And that overshadows the fact that I really do enjoy “Hourglass,” “Nocturnal,” and “Holding On.” It appears the most interesting thing that came out of these sessions, though, is a cover of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” with Sam Smith. And that’s kind of sad.
By the time album closer “Masterpiece,” a slow-burning (see: fucking boring) song, comes on, I opt to not even bother with the extra deluxe edition tracks. As another reviewer stated, so-so albums that should have been great albums hurt us most, as opposed to genuinely terrible albums.
So, perhaps I’ve been unfair to Disclosure. But that’s only because they’re capable of greatness and Caracal is not that. Not even close.