MUSE SICK IN HOUR MESS AGE
Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age
New Musical Express (12/24/94, p.22) - Ranked #20 in NME's list of the 'Top 50 Albums Of 1994.'
Vibe (8/94, p.105) - "...a tour de force of densely constructed music and verbiage. Snippets of Stax-Volt grooves, reggae, soul, and metal bop and weave over gut-punching bass lines and wicked drumming while front man Chuck D lets fly with...pronouncements, warnings, and accusations..."
Spin (8/94, p.84) - Highly Recommended - "...Knee deep in the age of gangsta, at the anticlimactic millennial edge of a world already gone wrong, Public Enemy has dropped its latest..."
Q Magazine (9/94, p.106) - 4 Stars - Excellent - "...Fact is, the lay off has just made Public Enemy sound fresh again...because they've regained the wicked combination of sonic disturbance and loose, rabblerousing funk that drove classic jams like 911 is A Joke..."
Melody Maker (8/20/94, p.35) - Recommended - "...This LP isn't just a stunning return to form for Public Enemy, it's perhaps the most powerful horrified answer to what you are doing to black culture yet..."
New Musical Express (8/27/94, p.39) - "...only slightly mellower and less chaotic than the past...no-one sounds like this..."
Entertainment Weekly (8/26 - 9/2, p.112) - "...it takes true guts to dis gansta rap and to challenge the black community to confront its problems..." - Rating: B
Alternative Press (9/94, pp.80-81) - "...Yeah, we've heard it before but Chuck can make waves even when he's treading water...MESS AGE may be PE's most consistently enjoyable disc..."
If Greatest Misses was viewed as a temporary stumble upon its release in 1992, Muse Sick-n-Hour Mess Age was viewed as proof positive that Public Enemy was creatively bankrupt and washed up when it appeared in 1994. By and large, it was savaged in the press, most notably in a two-star pan by Toure in Rolling Stone, whose review still irked PE leader Chuck D years later.
In retrospect, it's hard not to agree with Chuck's anger, since Muse Sick is hardly the disaster it was painted at the time. In fact, it's a thoroughly enjoyable, powerful album, one that is certainly not as visionary as the group's first four records, but is as musically satisfying. Its greatest crime is that it arrived at a time when so few were interested in not just Public Enemy, but what the group represents - namely, aggressive, uncompromising, noisy political rap that's unafraid and places as much emphasis on soundscape as it does on groove.
In 1994, hip-hop was immersed in gangsta murk (the Wu-Tang Clan's visionary 1993 debut, Enter the Wu-Tang, was only beginning to break the stranglehold of G-funk), and nobody cared to hear Public Enemy's unapologetic music, particularly since it made no concessions to the fads and trends of the times. Based solely on the sound, Muse Sick, in fact, could have appeared in 1991 as the sequel to Fear of a Black Planet, and even if it doesn't have the glorious highs of Apocalypse 91, it is arguably a more cohesive listen, with a greater sense of purpose and more consistent material than that record. But, timing does count for something, and Apocalypse did arrive when the group was not just at the peak of their powers, but at the peak of their hold on the public imagination, two things that cannot be discounted when considering the impact of an album.
This record, in contrast, stands outside of time, sounding better as the years have passed, because when it's separated from fashion and trends, it's revealed as a damn good Public Enemy record. True, it doesn't offer anything new, but it offers a uniformly satisfying listen and it has stood the test of time better than many records that elbowed it off the charts and out of public consciousness during that bleak summer of 1994. - Stephen Thomas Erlewine