Published Nov 19, 2019DJ Shadow's sixth album is every bit a call to action as it is a hard look in the mirror. Our Pathetic Age, a sprawling 26-track double LP, invites introspection and delves into the dangers of distraction and disaffection that has taken society hostage. The first half of the album is an instrumental exploration that is both unsettling ("Juggernaut") and deftly existential ("If I Died Today"). Shadow draws on a number of different musical styles that seemingly struggle to coexist, but create a jarring push/pull momentum that ultimately mimics the competing "ping!" of daily distraction.
But the second half of the LP is where the rubber really hits the Mad Max road, insomuch as it provides the hard-hitting hip-hop verses that give literal voice to the themes of technological surveillance, digital conformity ("C.O.N.F.O.R.M"), generational violence and generally anything that tries to make sense of our overcomplicated age. The roster of guest collaborators is impressive, ranging from veterans Nas and De La Soul ("Rocket Fuel" being a punchy highlight) to up-and-coming MCs such as Loyle Carner. Run the Jewels also team up with Shadow again, while Pusha T, Ghostface Killah and Dave East round out some other memorable appearances.
Our Pathetic Age is a must-listen for longtime fans who've followed Shadow's brilliance since Endtroducing.… Though his latest venture doesn't necessarily look to provide any one solution, he isn't closing the door ⏤ or mobile screen — on us just yet. Instead, he masterfully delivers a snapshot of a disjointed, vibrant and inherently flawed system as seen through one of electronic music's longstanding visionaries. (Mass Appeal)