Andrew Nielson has been releasing his distinctive style of hip-hop under the moniker ‘MC Lars’ since the late 1990s. Managing to inhabit the notorious grey-area between alternative and urban, Lars has boasted high profile support slots and appearances at a number of conventionally labelled alternative festivals. During this time the rapper has penned six full-lengths, six EPs and a wealth of collaborations and remixes. This ‘Greatest Hits’ compilation pulls together 16 fan favourite tracks into just under an hour, primarily taking songs from the three biggest albums; ‘The Graduate’, ‘The Gigantic Robot Kills’ and ‘Lars Attacks!’.
Despite opening with ‘Download This Song’ featuring Jaret Reddick from pop-punk veterans Bowling For Soup, it remains frustratingly difficult to decipher just how MC Lars managed to be successful in this crossover. Each song sits awkwardly between comedy and attempted credibility, with the majority of the compilation sharing more in common with hip-hop than rock. Unfortunately the hip-hop falls devastatingly short of the quality listeners may have come to expect in recent times. MC Lars attempts to compensate for his urban shortcomings by injecting comedy, yet only amasses groans rather than laughs.
Regardless of your attitude towards hip-hop, the stronger songs on the album are the ones that merge the two genres. ‘Singing Emo’ (perhaps Lars’ breakthrough track) retains the deliberately annoying catchy chorus and reasonably intelligent – although now outdated – social commentary. The Therapy? sample in ‘Hey There Ophelia’ surprisingly compliments the drum loop lurking in the background, while ‘Download This Song’ is undoubtedly a dance-floor filler; even when ignoring the Iggy Pop sample. Unfortunately these tracks are superseded by inane and elementary compositions such as the poorly developed ‘Summer Camp Love’ and characterless ‘Lars Attacks!’
The odd combination of comedy and commentary is not supported by the lyrics throughout the record. As a genre, hip-hop is largely dependent on the song content to evoke emotion or interest, yet MC Lars speaks of giant octopuses attacking the oesophagus or ironically announces his status as a true player. Even when Lars attempts lyrical intelligence such as the tracks taken from his literary commentary ‘Edgar Allen Poe EP’, the result is somewhat nonsensical – “I was fine until Moby scarred me like a knife” (‘Ahab’) or “satanic raven killing me softly like the Fugees” (Mr Raven). Worst of all is the nursery-rhyme atmosphere of suicide ballad ‘Twenty-Three’, which includes the somewhat unsympathetic rap of “suicide sucks”.
For an individual with such an extensive back catalogue it is disappointing to see a compilation fall so far from the mark. Although there are a few enjoyable moments and the occasional smile-inducing lyric, the majority of the record is shallow and unrefined. The humour which allowed MC Lars to reach this level has since been surpassed, and the standard of musicianship is too low to compensate for the minimal humour. Arguably this is not a record to sit and listen to at home, yet a certain level of veracity is required in order to be listenable. Humour or credibility? ‘Greatest Hits’ struggles to deliver either.