Emcee Eyedea and DJ Abilities are well known for coming up through the battle circuits, and for that their sound always seemed to retain that edge. They could switch things up and experiment a little, but you always knew that you were messing with someone who could spit rhymes quicker than you and someone who could scratch better than you could ever hope to. E&A, their 2004 release, really established them on the scene and gave us great songs like, “Now,” “Man Vs. Ape,” and “Paradise.” Unfortunately, it seemed like it wasn’t very long after they released and toured initially on that album that they disappeared. A couple of years later, I read that Eyedea was playing in a rock group, and I thought we’d probably never get another E&A. Well, now we have a new record, and I’m not exactly sure what to make of it. The album is definitely more rock influenced, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and at some points the production really starts to kick my ass. I think more than anything, what’s holding the album back is the lyrics. Whereas the lyrics on E&A walked the line from battle rap to interesting narrative poetry, this album goes from interesting narrative poetry to really obvious, whiny emo. And it’s unfortunate. I keep listening to this album feeling like I’m on the brink of a really brilliant album, like they are going to bridge genres in a really interesting way that is going to create some really transcendental music, but it keeps falling just short. Lines like “I fail to feel any connection /To the bones under my skin/You can cry but you’re still getting sterilized/You can show the sun how to come if you know the sky/He’ll let you make a mess if you keep him high” just scream high school poetry to me that should have never made it from the journal to the album. I feel like I’m being a little harsh, but that’s only because I feel like E&A are capable of greatness, and after all the time in between albums, the stakes get higher. I mean, there is music to like on this album. There are fuzzy guitars and heavy, funky drums that really make me want to turn the stereo up. But then there are choruses like “Empathy is the poor man’s cocaine/And love is just a chemical by any other name/I like the way your pheromones make me sleepy/This far away I still smell you inside me” that really make it hard for me to throw my support behind this album. I can say that By The Throat is definitely the most frustrated I’ve been by an album this year.