So I need to preface this review with my biases. Lyrics Born’s first solo album, Later That Day, was one of my favorite albums of 2003. It was funky as hell and featured some smart, politically-minded lyrics. It wasn’t perfect, but it was really damn good. I saw him in concert three times in support of that album including a show with RJD2, where I picked up an LB hoodie, which I proceeded to wear for the next four years until it was literally falling apart.

When his follow up, Everywhere at Once, finally came out in 2008, it was fairly disappointing. It had a few fun party songs, but seemed like such a giant step backward from his first album. Instead of relating the everyday life to the bigger picture, and dropping songs like “Last Trumpet” on us, there were songs like “Differences,” which pointed out the differences between men and women. Not exactly groundbreaking.

Well, As U Were sounds like a giant step backward from Everywhere at Once. It feels like Lyrics Born has completely forgotten about the amazing Bay Area funk that permeated in his older music, and all the activism that influenced his lyrical content. Instead, we get this coked-out eighties synth pop and hackneyed lyrics. Years ago, if you told me that Lyrics Born had a song called “Lies x 3,” I would expect the song to be putting politicians or Wall Street on blast, not some hokey relationship song.

Listening to this album reminds me of a friend’s theory that Sting is not actually the guy from the Police, since nothing in his solo career comes close to matching his output as a member of the Police. Is this Lyrics Born really the same guy from Latyrx or Later That Day? If some current pop star released “Lies x 3,” I’d just dismiss it bubblegum pop and not think twice about it. When’s it done by one the artists involved in the game-changing Quannum Projects, it hurts.

Just one more anecdote and I’ll be on my way – As I was in my office listening to the opening track, “Kontrol Freak,” which is again a terrible “These are the differences between men and women” song with cheesy production, my partner walked by, paused, and said, “Is this the new Lyrics Born? What happened?” Only about a minute later, as the song progressed, it elicited the reaction, “Oh God! There’s a spoken word part!” If you need to find me this weekend, I’ll be curled up in the fetal position staring at my copy of Quannum Spectrum, trying to remind myself that it wasn’t always this bad.