CANNIBAL OX The Cold Vein (Def Jux)

"The Cold Vein" is the long playing debut of New York rap troupe Cannibal Ox, and was lauded by NME as hip-hop's "What's Going On". Unfortunately, to my ears, it's nothing like Marvin Gaye's politico-soul classic. There's none of its precursor's light and shade, and precious little of its optimism, just relentlessly grey loops and constant streams of rhymes which, although obviously proficient and considered, don't really make for an entertaining listening experience for the merely curious, rather than devoted, rap inductee. The exception that tests the rule, however, is the almost marvellous closing number "Pigeon", which shares its metaphor for release with Jim Jarmusch's exemplary film "Ghost Dog The Way Of The Samurai" (which, in turn, featured music by and a cameo appearance from The RZA, of Wu-Tang Clan, coincidentally the band with whom Cannibal Ox are most likely to find themselves compared - see how these things run in circles?), and almost makes up for the hour of sadly uninspiring grind that precedes it.