Wu-Tang Clan & r & & r & 8 Diagrams & r & & r & 4 Stars & r & & r & It's true: 8 Diagrams is the Wu-Tang Clan's best album since its debut.

It's been 14 years since Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) changed hip-hop forever. Entirely produced by Clan-leader RZA as grimy fighting grounds for NYC's nine most drug-damaged rap samurai, it's perfect. Still sounds like nothing else. ONLY sounds like RZA.

8 Diagrams is RZA's show; over 16 tracks he subverts the whole Clan to his warped vision, which -- thank Allah -- hasn't changed much since 1993. A little more guitar-y, maybe -- Dhani Harrison (George Harrison's son) and John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers) play on the plodding, psychedelic "While My Heart Gently Weeps" -- but RZA's idea of what makes a banging beat still revolves around woodblocks and knuckle cracks.

The Clan's emcees respond to RZA's audio weirdness like it's not weird at all; they rhyme hard and complex, elevating 8 Diagrams from "interesting" to "profound".


Download: "16th Chamber (ODB Special)"


Shotter's Nation

2 Stars

Making excuses for Pete Doherty certainly takes its toll. While not such a bad gig during the Libertines years, it has been challenging to defend Doherty and retain one's self-respect during the post-Libertines years. By assuming the role of the tabloids' whipping boy, Doherty allowed his music to take a backseat to his personal life, a tragic decision. And as much as his antics make this writer laugh, they also make this writer cry. Doherty has talent; he seems unsure these days of how to use it.

Shotter's Nation is Doherty's attempt to right previous wrongs. Tracks "Carry On Up the Morning," "Unstookie Titled," and "Lost Art of Murder" showcase Doherty at his finest, even if that is not quite the standard it used to be. The sincerity of these songs suggests he wants to make amends for past wrongs. Whether anyone cares any longer is another story. But one can hope.


Download: "Unstookie Titled"

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