Who could have ever guessed the guy from Interpol, one of New York City’s most brooding efforts and creator of 2002’s fantastic Turn on the Bright Lights would release a mixtape titled “Everybody On My Dick Like They Supposed To Be,” prior to hooking up with one of the most famous hip-hop producers of all time, RZA. Like he named his mixtape what? We’re still talking about Paul Banks from Interpol right?
When asked who he would like to work together with musically in a 2013 interview with Rolling Stone, the famous, Wu-Tang Clan-producing RZA responded “Paul Banks.” He “just has an energy about him,” explained RZA, and from someone who experiments as much as the man behind The Man with the Iron Fists, I wouldn’t put RZA past anything. Not even the ridiculous album photo for Anything But Words, with Banks looking like he’s going to a costume party as a skinny Kingpin or Morgan Freeman from Bruce Almighty, dragging along RZA (or “Steelz” for some reason), reluctantly turning the act into some loosely constructed white-suit buddy cop theme.
Coincidentally, that’s also the major feel of Anything But Words: a loosely constructed buddy cop kind of project. Unlike the sleek fusion of Big Grams or other Wu-Tang affiliated collaborations like Ghostface Killah with BadBadNotGood, Banks & Steelz feels very much like two people doing very different things on the same song. RZA is as crazy explosive as he usually is, bringing the same intensity he had on the end of Kanye West’s “So Appalled,” but it’s a bit much on tracks that are not “Giant.” So like all the rest. Paul Banks’ role usually comes in for the chorus, sprinkling in these little poetic melodic elements so that the songs has a tune to it.
Sometimes I feel like some of the songs would even function better without RZA: a Paul Banks hip-hop/down-tempo-pop solo project. “Love and War” with Ghostface Killah is probably the best one, mainly because Ghostface has a great verse. It got me thinking that the whole album might have been better with Ghostface instead of RZA. He’s the one who is actually good at jumping in on collab albums in the first place (BadBadNotGood, MF Doom, Adrian Younge). With Big Grams, Big Boi changed his vocal sound and even sang a bit on songs like “Goldmine Junkie” and blended in with Phantogram. Here on Anything But Words, it’s almost like a “your turn” mentality. Anything But Words should be truly, anything but the words.