Wu-Tang bizarre, but brilliant

It's official. The Wu-Tang Clan is once again nothin' ta fuck wit.

The group's underwhelming fourth album, Iron Flag, put the idea in the heads of many that the Wu might indeed be something to fuck with. They may have realized this; six years of virtual silence and strategizing ensued. But once Method Man closes the first verse of 8 Diagrams with the boast "And I'm like Barry Bonds on anything that RZA throw," it becomes clear that the window has closed.

Meth wasn't the only one who got his swagger back. He teams up with the top lyricist of the group, Ghostface Killah, for several tracks on the first half of the album to create one of the most formidable rap duos in years. Raekwon sounds as inspired as he did on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx some 13 years ago. The tribute to their fallen comrade ODB ("Life Changes") seems a fitting homage to one of the most unique personalities of our generation, music or otherwise, as it moves between beautiful and bizarre. And RZA's production of the Beatles-inspired "The Heart Gently Weeps" shows why he has become one of the most revered men behind the booth.

But the same could not be said for RZA on every track. The internal conflict within the Wu and the making and release of this album seemed largely centered around their producer/auteur, and at times this seeps through.

"Unpredictable" sounds too much like a leftover track from a slasher flick RZA might be scoring. While it has moments of brilliance, the RZA solo track "Sunlight" ultimately comes across as self-absorbed when it falls on an album whose entire second half doesn't feature even a peep from Ghostface.

There are moments and tracks on which he stretches the limits of the organized chaos the Wu has thrived upon for over a decade now, and maybe he takes it too far.

But with eight egos that belong to eight of the weirdest dudes left in the music industry, it's no surprise you have to occasionally take a bit of bizarre with the brilliant.

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