Injury Reserve - By the Time I Get to Phoenix
Sep 19, 2021 (updated Sep 21, 2021)
80
edit: might've been recency bias so rating will change for now

Genuinely lost for words

Injury Reserve is a group I’ve always seen as those guys who make experimental hip-hop and that’s all. Experimental hip-hop has never really been my go to genre. Danny Brown, JPEGMAFIA, and clipping. are examples of artists that never really clicked with me yet are majorly essential to the genre in more ways than one. I didn’t really see them as an ideal group to listen to in my free time unless I gave their projects a chance. I got a recommendation to listen to the group’s 2016 mixtape “Floss” a couple months ago. I tried it out, and I actually thought it was pretty good. I thought most tracks flowed pretty well and it was just a smooth ride all around. Definitely an emotional roller coaster at times. Rather than that, I didn’t expect to come back to it ever again to be honest. So after listening to “Floss” I took a break from the group. I remember hearing about the upcoming record a couple weeks ago, and I was pretty excited to hear some new material. When the lead single “Knees” released, my opinion was… interesting.

I went into “Knees” expecting a hip-hop banger, but it DEFINITELY was not that. I was quick to hate the track because it was dragging and absolutely nothing I would be interested in coming back to. The same exact thing happened for the second single “Superman That”, but for different reasons. Superman That is 2 minutes and 40 seconds of pure fucking madness. You have to go in with an open mind about it. I sat there embarrassed for the group, wondering what direction this record would take. Before listening to the record, I gave Knees a 40/100, and Superman That a 39/100. I must have listened to the wrong tracks, because I completely missed the beauty of the sound.

I listened to the record the day of it’s release(Wednesday, Sep 15), and I thought it was just okay. I wanted to go in with an open mind, because I knew that I was harsh on the singles. I had very low expectations going into the record, and it ended up being… okay. From “SS San Francisco” to “Smoke Don’t Clear”, I was bored. I thought there was nothing to it. The album just kinda went in one ear and went out the other. After listening to “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”, I remembered that I never listened to their self titled debut album. I expected a lot from it due to the major praise around it. And let me tell you… I loved it. It was great to hear Rico Nasty, Freddie Gibbs, and even Aminé in full form. I even liked the delivery from JPEGMAFIA. His voice is very good, but his own music is just not my cup of tea. I ended up giving the album a 9/10. Later that day, I had an hour and a half to just chill and listen to music on a car ride back home. I wanted to retry the newest record, because I could tell I missed some of the strong points. I can confidently say that is one of the best ideas I have ever had.

On first listen, I rated track by track. That was definitely not the right idea for an ambitious record like this. There’s something that was special about this relisten. I guess I just needed a change of scenery to see the intentions of this project. The album cover was a beyond perfect choice. The floating, the beam, the abstract reality; it’s a representation that is way too accurate. You know the Man on The Moon 3 album cover? Imagine that, but with a black hole sinking you in. That is exactly what this record feels like. It is beyond ruthless. It’s grand in different ways than one. Every song is completely different than the last. Nothing went unnoticed, yet I probably don’t even know half of the purpose. I am so confused, yet I understand exactly what they were going for. This album didn’t have a single song that made my jaw drop, because that wasn’t the intention. It was just the experience behind it that really captivated me. I don’t think I need to specify standout tracks. It was just… how do I describe this? You really can’t. Injury Reserve are still nowhere near the mainstream, but from what they just made, they need no introduction. The highlight of the album is the whole thing.

How often can you make a statement like that? Exactly.

I’m feeling… *Cal Chuchesta pacing*... a 10.

4 Comments
Sep 19, 2021
Absolutely wonderfully written, and honestly really surprised this grew on to be an all time favorite, considering I saw you hold disregard for it earlier
Sep 19, 2021
@TomBejoy Thank you for your kind words. I feel like it was less about being an all time favorite, and more about the album checking every box of what makes a perfect album. It was mind complication, skipless, perfectly flowed, and represented something bigger than life.
Sep 19, 2021
Great job on the review!
Sep 19, 2021
@Brando Thank you!
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