Banks & Steelz Offer Compelling, Eclectic LP with ‘Anything But Words’
Paul Banks (Interpol) and RZA (Wu-Tang Clan) – aka Steelz – collaborate on thrilling alternative/hip-hop album, ‘Anything But Words’.
Banks & Steelz is a collaborative project between Paul Banks (Interpol) and hip-hop veteran RZA (Wu-Tang Clan), aka Steelz. The unlikely duo released their first collaborative album, Anything But Words at the end of August. After dropping several singles prior to the album, Banks & Steelz built some buzz around the project. Does Anything But Words live up to the hype? By all means. Anything But Words is collaborative gold.
Anything But Words
“Giant” & “Sword in the Stone”
“Giant” opens Anything But Words with punk-rap aggression – if such a thing exists. RZA is amped up, embodying his inner rock star. Banks is more chill, balancing the two out on the hook. “Giant” is a savvy way to initiate the collaborative set.
On “Ana Electronic,” Banks gets “first blood.” The pace is slackened, but still relatively quick and assertive. The guitars coupled with the synths make for a beautiful mix, clearly steeped in both alternative and hip-hop worlds. The production kicks serious ass.
If “Ana Electronic” leans more alternative, “Sword in the Stone” is hip-hop through and through. After Banks’ intro, RZA goes for the kill – quite the prolific, profane wordsmith. There’s an inescapable old school quality, obvious particularly at the end of RZA’s verse with the absence of a hook, leading into Kool Keith’s guest verse.
“Speedway Sonora” packs plenty of punch, with angst-laden distorted guitar paired oxymoronically with kinder, gentler piano. “Speedway Sonora” doesn’t quite go as hard as opener “Giant,” but has the same ‘go-getter’ spirit. The rhythmic groove serves as a propelling force.
The calmer “Wild Season” brings in the second guest of the album, Florence Welch. Welch sounds as electric as ever, successfully channeling her soulfulness on her own verse. Prior to her entrance, Banks delivers a memorable chorus:
“I stay alone, skipped a stone, from the known to the unknown / feeding fires, spinning tires, getting even…”
RZA shines as well, though arguably this track speaks more to the chemistry between Banks and Welch.
On title track “Anything But Words” the production continues to be creative, successfully blending numerous stylistic ideas. Banks delivers distinct, beautiful vocals during the chorus and one verse. RZA continues to delivers strong rhymes without question. He is tamer here compared to his performances on “Giant” and “Sword in the Stone.” The reason for this is the tone of the song and a slower pace.
“Conceal” has an eerie sound – the tension is instantly perceptible, thanks in particular to the organ. “Conceal” takes a couple of listens to unveil its full magic. Even so, it’s instantly obvious this is a special record – one of the better moments of Anything But Words.
“Love and War” & “Can’t Hardly Feel”
“Love and War” opens with a solitary trumpet, signaling the moodiness of the record that proceeds. Banks asks on one of the most memorable hooks, “If all is fair in love and war…/ what are you keeping score for?” Ghostface Killah guests, clearly on autopilot. RZA follows, on catchy pre-chorus, spitting,
“She’s bitching, I’m bitching / she’s switching, I’m switching / she’s talking, I’m not listening / I’m bitching about her in the kitchen.”
He follows with his own verse, depicting the friction masterfully.
“Can’t Hardly Feel” also dabbles in love, but contrasts with a less aggressive sound. In other words, the bitching of “Love and War” is kept at a minimum. Interestingly, follow up “One By One” trends more subtly than some earlier songs. Still, Banks manages to incorporate the bomb (“I’m all fucked up today”). RZA is cooler initially, but progressively grows fiercer. The overall result is somewhat oxymoronic, and pulling that off successfully is brilliant.
Not unlike “Conceal,” Banks channels his haunting, eerie persona on gorgeous penultimate track “Gonna Make It.” RZA offers perfect contrast to Banks distinct pipes. Put Banks and RZA’s rhymes over tense, alternative/electro-infused hip-hop production, and the results are superb. Anything But Words concludes with “Point of View” featuring Method Man and Masta Killa.
All in all, Paul Banks and RZA have created a truly special collaborative effort on Anything But Words. The 55-minute album never misses the mark, with the chemistry between the unlikely duo being immaculate. While there are clear standouts, the less heralded numbers are no slouches in the least. Banks & Steelz themselves, and Anything But Words makes it crystal clear that more collaborative efforts like this one need to happen.
Gems: “Giant,” “Sword in the Stone,” “Wild Season,” “Love and War” & “Gonna Make It”
Banks & Steelz • Anything But Words • Warner Bros. • Release: 8.26.16
Members: Paul Banks & RZA
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.