Album Review: Banks & Steelz – Anything But Words (2016 LP)

Banks & Steelz, the collaborative project of Paul Banks of Interpol and RZA of Wu-Tang Clan works on paper, but how has it actually turned out? Given my lack of prior exposure to both Interpol and Wu-Tang Clan, I’ve come in with no expectations of what either of the two featuring artists should be bringing to Anything But Words, so it’s a blank slate the duo are impressing on here.

Opening with “Giant”, the duo’s roles for most of the record are made very clear – RZA handles the verses while Banks takes the choruses. Nothing stands out instrumentally in the record’s first offering while the lyrics, whilst possessing an admirable ideal, are a cheesy attempt to tell the listener that evil corporations can be defeated if everybody unites. “Ana Electronic” thankfully takes itself a little less seriously and the benefit is immediate. Over a backing synth and rhythm guitar, Banks delivers a super catchy hook delivered with considerably more freedom than any from the previous track. RZA again contributes verses that, while flowing well enough, don’t stand out in any sense.

Despite features from Kool Keith, Florence Welch, Ghostface Killah, Method Man, and Masta Killa, the repetitive nature of the alternation between Banks and RZA makes for a quickly tiresome experience. RZA in particular comes across on multiple occasions as if he is trying really, really hard to drop the hottest verse ever recorded, only for Banks to step in with a subdued chorus to apologise to the listener for his overzealous friend who can sometimes get a bit too excited. To this extent, “Anything But Words” and “Conceal” are by far the most pleasant songs on the record for the simple fact that they don’t try to assault you with a many words per minute as possible. Rather, there is a stronger focus on both the lyrics and the melody, leading to a considerably more focused passage of music.

Lyrically and instrumentally there isn’t a whole lot to write home about here with Anything But Words. The combination of indie-rock and rap vocals is tried and true, but now tired and unoriginal, with Banks & Steelz often trying too hard to force interest from the listener. By all means give Anything But Words a shot, but don’t expect anything ground-breaking.

Review Score: 5 out of 10.

Anything But Words is out now.