THEY., "Nu Religion: Hyena" (Warner Bros. Records/Mind of a Genius)
Los Angeles-based duo THEY. call their sound grunge'n'b — a fusion of R&B and hip-hop, mixed with rock. The label might sound a little gimmicky, but what the genre-bending THEY. does on their debut album makes it a highly enjoyable listen.
The 14-track set of "Nu Religion: Hyena" is sonically captivating, with Drew Love — the duo's vocalist — bragging like a rapper while singing in the tone of New Edition's Ralph Tresvant. Love sends his tenor over foreboding piano and grungy guitar on "Deep End," then raps alongside blazing guitar strings on "Say When."
On the standout "Motley Crew," he paints a picture of THEY.'s come-up: "Some might say we're armed and dangerous/Pay the price of a life every night but it ain't enough."
Heads will bop during the mid-tempo, organ-fueled "All" and "U-RITE." And fans of the late 90s TV series "Dawson's Creek" will recognize a brilliant use of Paula Cole's "I Don't Want to Wait" on THEY.'s "Dante's Creek."
Much credit should be given to THEY.'s other half, producer Dante Jones, who's created soundscapes that make "Nu Religion" sound cohesive even with such an eclectic range of musical styles. He's helping THEY. push the limits, and there's no telling where they'll go from here.