You might be forgiven to think that The Roots' new album was subject to the inspiration of their boredom. The Philadelphian band have always eschewed the standard practices and fares of the contemporary music industry but Undun, their eleventh, might be their most inventive album in many a year. The band, who to many are known simply as the music accompaniment to Jimmy Fallon's nightly NBC chat show in the US, have undertaken with Undun their first ever concept album, framed around the narrative of a (fictional) man named Redford Stephens.
It's immediately clear that Redford's story isn't a happy one; the album, which tells the life story in reverse, opens with an EKG heart monitor flatlining and doesn't get much more upbeat thereafter. But never is the album buried under the scope of its concept, as the existential nature of the album shines through but - crucially - isn't delivered in a ram-down-your-throat fashion and, even more importantly, it's never trite.
Musically, the album stands up to anything The Roots have done up until this point in their careers. Still, the Redford concept hangs secondary to the music and, while it never obscures it, is sometimes an occasional distraction from the flow of the album. However, songs like 'Make My' and 'The OtherSide', as well as the novelty of a Sufjan Stevens collaboration on one of the tracks, makes Undun a standout.