No one coasts quite like the Wu-Tang Clan. The wider the Staten Island group get, the less concentrated their projects become, with most just hinting at the dusted, grimy thump of the original. Sadly, a couple of Raekwon's obscure couplets, a Method Man sniff and some ODB curses over minor-key beats don't make a Wu-Tang album.
Apparently, the 10-piece crew have also realized this. The W is their long-promised back-to-basics album, and while it's not quite a return to 36 Chambers, it is better than that last Masta Killa record. Putting RZA back behind the board was a good first step. The unpredictable beats on The W stutter and chirp and end up taking centrestage. The rest of the Clan rhyme in code. With Ol' Dirty still on the run and restricted to just one cryptic cut, guests like Junior Reed, Redman and Isaac Hayes are brought in to fill in the holes. It's predictably uneven, but the Wu were never the most reliable group. MG