It must be great to be Pharrell Williams. Not only is the Virginia Beach native half of one of the most in-demand production teams in mainstream music (The Neptunes), a talented songwriter in his own right, and a magnet for musical collaborations of all genres - but he even made Madonna cry while working on her latest album. That's an impressive feat. Yet despite the criticism often levelled at him (usually relating to the words 'fingers', 'pies' and 'too many'), he still manages to pull off a host of projects with finesse.
N*E*R*D, the multi-talented entrepreneur's main vision, released their first record as long as six years ago. 'In Search Of..' was a mostly-exceptional album; almost pioneering, in some respects. Even though the trio (Chad Hugo and Shay Haley make up the ranks) weren't reinventing the wheel with their genre-meshing style, it had certainly been a while before anyone else had crossed rock, hip-hop, funk and soul with such refinement - yet their subsequent releases (Williams's solo effort included) have failed to fulfil the potential that was insinuated on that debut.
In that respect, 'Seeing Sounds' is a disappointment to fans who may have been expecting the group's magnum opus - but there's still plenty to like here. A strong start involving the crisp, bass-heavy beats of Time for Some Action and inventiveness of ace single Everyone Nose, the buzzing hip-hop/electro manoeuvres of Anti-Matter and the slick, frenetic jitterings of the excellent Spaz kick things off promisingly; but like 'Fly or Die', it quickly becomes dulled by the mid-tempo, soul-infused middle section.
Perhaps it's down to the fact that N*E*R*D's dependency on studio technology has been vanquished (they've all learned instruments since 'In Search Of..') - but strangely, what should be an advantageous feature of their music is ultimately to their detriment. Will that magnum opus ever be made? It's debatable, but let's hope so.