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Flying Colours

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Album Review

Sydney group Bliss N Eso don't always get a lot of love from the hardcore of the Australian hip-hop scene, where any hint of an American accent is frowned on. Bliss has the excuse of being born in the U.S. to explain why he sounds a bit like the verbose Brooklynite El-P, and the group members do everything else expected of them to fit in, like wearing hoodies and fitted caps and pulling dour skrewfaces in their press shots — but even so, the first two Bliss N Eso albums split opinions and started arguments. Flying Colours, album number three, comes with unashamedly singalong choruses and catchy beats, some of them a little familiar-sounding, as if Bliss N Eso have given up on ever appealing to the hardcore and changed their target to elsewhere instead. The first single — a cover of "Bullet and a Target" done in collaboration with the Zulu Connection Choir as a charity fundraiser (and recorded at Jimmy Barnes' studio, strangely enough) — was an early taster of this new musicality. They followed it up with a deluxe gold and blingy two-CD set with a mix of party starters like "Woodstock 2008" and paranoid rants where the crazy-eyed Eso rambles about conspiracies. The highlight of disc one is "$5 Steak," a cross between Aesop Rock and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion that finds them shout-singing about how they prefer eating cheap pub meals to going out clubbing. The bonus disc focuses on more of this stranger side rather than the pop side, with "The Dark Tower" a funky number about being a winged god from another galaxy that references Dungeons & Dragons and Pirates of the Caribbean, and "Choof Choof Train" a pot smoker's parade of narcotized oddities. Lyrically, there's still some improving left for them to do. The complaints about political corruption and conspiracies are phrased naïvely whether you agree with them or not, and their pop culture name-checking (and movie sampling) is so dense and constant that it sounds like product placement. It reaches a peak in "Zion Bash," a song that has nothing to do with Jerusalem but is instead about the much-criticized rave scene from The Matrix Reloaded. Like that scene, this album is out of place — although they're clearly having a lot of fun.


Formed: 2000 in Sydney, Australia

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '00s, '10s

As the small Australian hip-hop scene grew during the 2000s and 2010s, it developed an identity influenced by, but distinct from, that of American hip-hop. Straddling the line between the two are Bliss N Eso. Originally known as Bliss N Esoterikizm, a name that led to problems with pronunciation among their fans, the group consists of MCs Bliss (Johnathan Notley) and Eso (Max MacKinnon), as well as DJ Izm (Tarik Ejjamai). The two rappers can be easily identified on their records by the difference...
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Flying Colours, Bliss n Eso
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