Pigeon John - Dragon Slayer

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Dragon Slayer is too safe, too sterile, and too polite, it feels less like the work of an artist breaking new personal ground and more like one chasing trends.

Pigeon John's new album, Dragon Slayer, is a study in contrast. Lyrically, it follows the Los Angeles veteran emcee's pattern of highlighting the everyday, jokily subverting Hip Hop's conventions. Musically, the album veers all over the place with mixed results. John seems to be attempting to place himself in line with newer rappers that he predates by several years, like Kid Cudi and B.o.B. These artists appear to want to be everything to everyone, showing that they are down with Rap heads and Indie Rock fans alike, and be as commercially accessible as possible while being careful not to come off to “try-hard.” What one would hope is that this type of approach would lead to some eclectic results, an amalgamation unique to its creator, but unfortunately that’s not the case. Dragon Slayer is too safe, too sterile, and too polite, it feels less like the work of an artist breaking new personal ground and more like a musician chasing trends.

Whereas 2006's Pigeon John...And The Summertime Pool Party carefully balanced the John of old from the singer/songwriting in utero, Dragon Slayer is less interested in balance. It shows as many of the songs sound similar. Opening duo “The Bomb” and “Buttersoft Seats” are a good example. Both feature simple choruses, essentially the title repeated over and over, with little melodic development throughout. Yes, the songs are pleasingly high energy and relative catchy, but they’re catchy in a way that wears off easily, as they don’t have enough going on to sustain prolonged fixation on the part of listeners. Compositionally, many of the tracks follow a pattern. They are essentially 80% Indie-Pop song and 20% Hip Hop, with the smaller percentage being represented by a quick verse spit by John. That’s not a promising split.

Too often the songs just seem like bland copies of things that’ve been done a million times before. “Before We’re Gone” is a mid-tempo song that recalls the more forgettable work of mid-level Indie Rock bands that have risen to prominence in the last decade and the results are, unsurprisingly, middling. “Rock Bottom Again” is languid Beatles-esque Pop and while it’s carried off competently that type of pastiche is a dime a dozen. The song is also unoriginal lyrically painting the portrait of a Godly man thrown off the path by drugs but the lyrics offer no new insights into what it means to want to be holy while being sinful. And lyrics like “You’re the voice I always heard when the silence got loud / And you’re the artist behind the all the animals and the clouds” don’t help. “Davey Rockit” is another instance of Pigeon John relying too heavily on templates. It’s a story-song about that most well worn of cliché’s – the young man’s misadventure on the road to fame and it features such lyrics as, “Everyone told him not to do it / They said, ‘Dave just chill / And get a job and get a gig at the mall.’” You won’t be shocked to find the song’s protagonist was able to ignore that advice. Album closer “Ben Vereen” is just inexcusable. It’s lyrics are a boring, misogynistic diatribe against an ex-lover who is dismissed with the embarrassingly sophomoric put down “Why you gotta act so mean? You’re such a pretty girl on the outside but your insides are Ben Vereen.”

The album does have highlights though. John’s talent at making the ordinary sound cooler than cool is in full effect on “So Gangster” where he spits knowingly, “Yup, I’m bangin’ some Depeche Mode / Windows down so you can see my fresh mode / Yeah, my 6-4 is only a Nintendo / But I’m smashin’ fools on some ‘Super Mario.’” Though, he goes back to the same well on “To Do List” with much less satisfying results. “Excuse Me” and “Hey You” offer welcome, high-energy diversions from the generally laid back mood of the album as a whole. “Dude, It’s On” is an example of one of the few songs on Dragon Slayer that is essentially a imitation but still stands on it’s own. The track is a good example of modern, Psychedelic Pop with processed vocals, organ, and glockenspiel mixing with John’s laconic delivery.

But far too much of Dragon Slayer sounds like a guy trying to fit into as many boxes as possible. What’s the point of ditching the samples and writing your own material if the original work sounds like a carbon copy of other artists? As he has for over a decade, Pigeon John proves himself as a talented guy with his own worldview, something that he isn’t afraid to express in his lyrics. On his next record he’d do well to bring that distinctiveness to the musical side.



  • Mitch Davis

    This song has been in so many commercials, it is a song not too many people know,but they may recognize it from one of the commercials.

  • Tim

    I've been a huge PJ fan for years, I have no complaints

  • JimmyJazz

    But Pigeon John has been doing that Lupe Fiasco, BoB, and Cudi shit way before those kids got famous

  • westcoast!

    first of all this album to me is more then genius. for new comers i can see how it would kind of be hard to say this is up there with the other quantum act's but trust me it is. i have been listing to pj since day one from his brainwash projects days and he definatly is a great all around emcee. every album he does he lets us in his world song by song. in this album he touches on certain topic's like his faith with god on rock bottom" which to me is a hidden gem. on before we are gone i think he speaks in second person and seems to make that song soooooo great. i can;t play it enough. i can go on for all songs as a true pj fan and even people that i have let listine to the album who didn't know his old stuff can still appreciate it and want copy's...pj is a master mind i just hope he knows it...i would have liked to see some colablos on this album but it was all about getting his true feelings out on each track..alone..the album is a bit short for me but keeps me fiending some more pj.....

  • makalleli

    While this isn't going to be album of the year (or anything close), John still brings it with his own style of fun loving, self depreciating average guy who happens to make records. He's always half sung a lot of his his lyrics and tends to be on the "I kinda rap" spectrum of things, so faulting him for it now because other more popular artists are doing it now too seems a bit faulty to me. Same goes for the criticism of him being safe and polite (and rapping about that fact). There's a lot of catchy songs on the album, and if you've liked him before, you probably will again. While there's a couple of duds on the album, it's still one I've been listening to for a week and will definately come back to on a semi regular basis.

  • tibedo

    The Blackalicious projects are the only albums that stand out from the label. Gift of Gab is really a great MC and it would be hard for any up and coming star to walk in his path. Pigeon John is a great cameo artist he brings energy to the stage at the concerts I been to. By himself he just doesn't grasp my attention long enough for a full LP. 2.5

  • hell 2 the nah

    I think this was the least rap album John's made yet. I wish Quannum would release good shit again, losing all hope for that label.