By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
"God bless this mess," Khadijah Anwar proclaims at the top of Slicker's We All Have a Plan, the third album by Chicagoan John Hughes III, a dude possibly better known for his ownership of Hefty Records (home of Telefon Tel Aviv and Prefuse 73 offshoot Savath & Savalas) than for his own records. (There's also the attention-getting matter of Hughes' famous dad, the Breakfast Club filmmaker who shares his name.) For all I know, Anwar copped the phrase from one of those quaint needlepoint wall hangings suburban homeowners get a kick out of displaying in their entryways. (Perhaps it hangs at chez Hughes itself.)
But the incantation also applies to the wide-ranging electronic music on Plan, which swallows everything from smoothed-out R&B balladry, world-music bustle and chopped-up Prefuse-style glitchery to post-rock crooning, Louis Armstrong growl and hip-hop boom-bap on its way to realizing a vision of IDM capable of inspiring more than an appreciatively furrowed brow. So it's a mess, but kind of an interesting one: "We All Have a Plan" imagines bizarro LA rockers the Eels as a rubbery post-disco unit; "A Strong Donkey" achieves a fuzzy-needle elegance on the back of singer Lindsay Anderson's after-hours coo; "Straight Mess" wants to impress Lil Jon with its crunked-out rhythmic attack but keeps derailing into laptop funk; "Knock Me Down Girl" wants to impress dopey Mitsubishi shills Dirty Vegas but thankfully comes to its senses before that certain doom.
Obviously his father's son, Hughes shows real skill in marshaling his collaborators' abilities for the good of the project: For all its stylistic variety -- Plan features contributions from more than a dozen different players -- the disc never spins off into territory unrecognizable as Slicker's own. "Don't you forget about me," Hughes seems to plead with us, dropping in more convincing evidence of his catholic taste.