(4 out of 5)
Between the presence of Prince Zimboo and the whole zombie-war mythology constructed around this Major Lazer character, it would be pretty easy to assume that GUNS DON’T KILL PEOPLE…LAZERS DO is nothing more than a bunch of punchline-filled joke-hop. It is not. Although it’s far from being a serious academic exercise, there’s nothing about this mad scientist project that reeks of casual stupidity or silliness…okay, maybe a little bit — but the Prince Zimboo skit (“Baby”) featuring a mewling infant born from Auto-Tune is sure to crack a smile on even the most studious listener. The other dozen cuts here find Diplo and Switch, two of the most exciting and unrestrained producers making beats today, projecting an astounding sense of assured innovation. With the same globalist, post-hip hop mindset that they’ve applied to their work with Santigold and M.I.A., Diplo and Switch refract dancehall, reggae and bashment styles through a postmodern prism that’s noisy, bass-heavy and unapologetically digitized. Yet a rootsy and raw vibe permeates all the cuts here, from the lovers rock groove of “Can’t Stop Now” and the toasty, electro minimalism of “What U Like” (which features lyrics that would make Peaches blush) to the surf-twang-dancehall of “Hold the Line” (with Santigold and Mr. Lexx) and the relentlessly percussive and pitch-shifted batucada funk of “Pon de Floor.” Why on earth Diplo and Switch felt it necessary to disguise such awesomeness with a ridiculous, fictional bacsktory is a mystery, but forget about the zombies; the futuristic funk and rough-and-ready rhymes here are more than enough to keep your attention.