Most of America (including me) was introduced to Saul Williams in 2004 through a music video on MTV, as novel as that sounds these days. By this time they were only playing small clips of videos while the credits of reality shows ran, but “List of Demands(Reparations)” was different sounding and catchy enough to make an impression. Back then Williams had “…a list of demands written on the palm of his hand.”
Unfortunately, the list must have rubbed off before this new album, as Williams seems to have lost his way on Volcanic Sunlight. The album doesn’t demand much at all from its listener. All the specific Saul Williams sounds are there; the buzzing synths, the spoken word passages, the trip hop beats — but they feel like hollow threats.
I won’t guess as to why this change has come upon Saul. People change and so does their art. But this Saul Williams is, frankly, boring and has more in common with Taio Cruz than, well, Saul Williams.
The main problem here is that while Williams’ earlier albums were filled with ideas and urgency, Volcanic Sunlight finds Williams relaxing into a purposeless middle age. Don’t stop from investing time and money into Saul Williams, who is definitely a fascinating and entertaining figure in modern music — but don’t start with this album.