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Before Lil Wayne poured himself into skinny jeans, the Knux redefined rap in its own iconoclastic hipster image on the 2008 debut “Remind Me in 3 Days....” New Orleans-bred, L.A.-based sibling duo Alvin and Kentrell Lindsey tweaked genre expectations with un-gangsta lyrics, then-unfashionable electronica influences, and virtuosic musical dimension (unlike Weezy’s amateurish strumming, these cats can actually play their guitars with aplomb). On the group’s new album, “Eraser,” the Knux push even further, resulting in one of 2011’s most startling, assured releases.
Eraser opens with “The Road,” a trippy, synthed-out instrumental that could’ve come from Primal Scream’s acid-house era — and things only get more gloriously weird from there. Every song percolates with Jack White-style garage riffs, unexpected glam-rock beats and outright psychedelia, showing no restraint in taking sounds and structure as far as possible. That’s not to say the Knux has foregone massive hooks — “Run,” featuring a memorable cameo from Kid Cudi amid Strokes-style barre chords, is as catchy a single as any released this year; still, even club bangers like the rave-tastic “I See Stars” lace hands-in-the-air melodicism with quizzical melancholy. Lyrically, the Lindseys don’t hold back either, proving more political and imagistic than most of their major-label hip-hop peers: “Everyone’s suicidal from the cancer they believe in,” goes a typically provocative line from “Dead World.” From the lyrics to the sonics, the Knux here proves uncharacteristically brave amid its sheep-like peers: if anyone is to be heir to OutKast’s maverick throne, these guys might already have the keys to the kingdom.
Three and a half stars (Out of four)