If I were asked to describe this record in one sentence, I would say it’s as if Angry BlackMen got a float in the Black Parade. But while it’s easy to try and fit Drowning Lessons into boxes, the record’s identity is ever-shifting and eager to fake the listener out with various curveballs. Jodie Jodie Roger explores several genres and ideas throughout a winding thirteen tracks, twisting and incorporating them into intense auditory experiences that are sure to make both the most uninitiated of hip hop and hardcore fans headbang at least once.
Speaking of exploring different genres, Jodie Jodie Roger brings two collaborators onto this record (although both are actually the artist themself) — the 808-bouncer with a gothic flair, Solomon Grundy, and the sludgy, melodramatic, metal-adjacent Rudi Sainte-Cloud, both of whom bring unique sonic flavours to their respective halves of the record. The album centres on both of these character’s separate struggles, and as the artist states, it acts as “a poetic retelling of unfortunate events.” The brutal, pounding synthscapes of Grundy’s work are equal parts catchy and unsettling, the perfect bed for Jodie Jodie Roger’s own screaming brand of rap. Jodie Jodie Roger is no slouch as a vocalist, flowing effortlessly over album opener “Brittle Bones” and gothic-tinged banger “Silk Stait-Jackets.” With a taste for the dramatic, Solomon Grundy certainly brings a performance that will outlast the brevity of their namesake. Meanwhile, the Sainte-Cloud portion of the album dives headlong into more experimental and genre-bending territory. From the melting array of background synths on “Pussification,” to the happy-hardcore bop “Momento Horni,” which also easily takes the prize for my favourite track title, ever. Of all time.
It should not be understated how much of a phenomenal producer Jodie Jodie Roger is. The desolation buried within the crunchy bass and raging lyrical performance on Grundy’s half of the album is more than enough evidence of this. This doesn’t prevent them from having fun with their work, however, being able to inject light-hearted stabs into a record that can feel crushing at times. “A Flair for the Histrionics,” the third track on the record, shows their sample savviness with a cheeky snippet that some folks in certain spaces will certainly recognize. Meanwhile, the Sainte-Cloud track “808’s & Cocaine” takes a speedy left-turn into the realm of bubblegum pop, if you can believe that, before suddenly dropping into a punk-styled section that could give anyone the greatest blast of auditory whiplash ever.
The record ends on Dolce Vitae, a meandering sonic spiral that grants the listener safe egress from Jodie Jodie Roger’s debut record. I would also love to mention that this song is the absolute best a MIDI guitar has ever sounded, without a shred of doubt. Genre-wise, it sits on the near opposite end of where everything started, completely instrumental and bereft of those sweetly sick 808s, yet it couldn’t feel more fitting. Much like its starring cast, Drowning Lessons is diverse and intense in all the right ways. It shrugs off any label you try to throw at it, and like it or not, it will drag you kicking and screaming into its own ring. You may not be drowning when you listen to this record, but it will certainly leave you wanting another dive in when you’re finished.