Even after nine albums that were each consecutively stranger than the last, Busdriver's tenth outing is a jarring departure. Released in 2012, Beaus$Eros (pronounced "Bows and Arrows") finds the speed rapper changing gears and singing lazily over electro-pop beats. He incorporates three-part harmonies, complex melodies, and a washed-out production style (courtesy of Loden) that shares a lot in common with pre-So Peter Gabriel. This drastic stylistic switch marks a much-needed turning point of his career, but the concept is also so deliberately scattered that it's hard to tell if he has tapped into something far-out and brilliant or just gone crazy. As usual, he imitates a variety of characters (even contorting his voice to sound like a little girl in "Feelings") and tackles whatever idea happens to be floating around his brain in an abstract free-form style. One subject involves a musician trying to think of a band name, "Ass to Mouth" is gross satire of club music, and "NoBlacksNoJewsNoAsians" is a thought-provoking commentary on racism. Of the 54 minutes, the latter sounds closest to Busdriver's early hip-hop outings, although it is strung together without a rhyme scheme or hook. While many of the songs sidestep rap conventions completely and fit the 808s & Heartbreak rapper-goes-electro format, the best songs incorporate tuneful melodies and still manage enough room for Busdriver to show off his hyper-adventurous style of rhyming. These moments are few, but "Here's to Us" and the pleasingly glitched "Beaus$Eros" are neon jams. Beaus$Eros is fringe listening, but it could be the answer for those wondering what would happen if Spank Rock remixed TV on the Radio.
Jason Lymangrover, Rovi