Injury Reserve: By the Time I Get to Phoenix (Self-Released) - review | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, October 27th, 2021  

Injury Reserve

By the Time I Get to Phoenix

Self-Released

Sep 16, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Alternative rap group Injury Reserve have spent the latter half of the 2010’s gaining Internet traction for a string of eclectic mixtapes and EPs. The buzz created from these projects culminated in the release of their 2019 self-titled debut album, which was met with acclaim and afforded them the star power necessary to headline their first ever world tour. Tragedy struck one year later with the passing of member Stepa J. Groggs, and many wondered what would become of the group, now left with only two members. On By the Time I Get to Phoenix, producer Corey Parker and rapper Ritchie With a T pick up where they left off on their debut, yet gone is the playfulness and cheeky sense of humor found on previous releases.

Parker and Ritchie exist on the album in a jaded, contemplative state, coarsened by emotional turmoil, with Groggs making occasional appearances across the record, which was partially completed before his passing. A near post-apocalyptic sense of doom lingers over the album, and grief is present everywhere—it doesn’t even have to be explicitly mentioned to feel it. Most songs feel as if they are stuck in a blurry, depressive haze. Ritchie’s abstract lyrics combined with Parker’s caustic, seemingly structureless production call to mind Earl Sweatshirt’s Some Rap Songs, an album which similarly explores a depressed mind state. But whereas that album benefitted from a zippy run time and hard-hitting lyricism, By the Time I Get to Phoenix never quite sticks its landing, overstaying its welcome in the process.

Parker’s production is known for blending glitchy experimentalism with radio-ready mainstream appeal, but By the Time I Get to Phoenix goes all in with its head-splitting, BPM-defying glitchiness, making no Top 40 concessions whatsoever. Paired with Ritchie’s often aggressive and repetitive lyricism, the listener can feel the effect of a fractured mental state warped by grief and anxiety. The only problem is that the songs which comprise the album don’t necessarily have enough interesting ideas in terms of production and lyricism to back up its 40-minute runtime.

The percussive and stuttering glitchiness inherent in the album’s production begins to become monotonous by track four, “Footwork in a Forest Fire,” feeling more like a crutch as opposed to something that genuinely propels each song’s energy forward. Ritchie’s (intentional?) lyrical repetition of phrases becomes stale quite quickly on any given song on the album, not necessarily giving the listener much to chew on. The album isn’t without its hidden gems, however. “Top Picks for You,” a song which explicitly deals with Ritchie’s mourning over Groggs, presents a tribute to a friend that is heartfelt in its simplicity. “Your pattern’s still in place, algorithm’s still in action,” he repeats throughout the song, heartbreakingly illustrating the vortex effect of grief as he recounts scrolling through TV channels and finding something that his friend would have liked. These moments of tangible emotion are few and far between on By the Time I Get to Phoenix, but when they are present, they cut deep.

The album ends up feeling more like a patchwork of ideas than anything, resembling a puzzle with all of its pieces scattered. In a way, it’s the album’s greatest strength and its biggest downfall. Parker and Ritchie let us in to inspect their psychological state across 11 tracks, providing a sonic amalgam of their lives in these uncertain times, but the real question is whether or not the end result gives us enough room to truly explore. (www.injuryreserve.online)

Author rating: 5.5/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10



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