Saul's career arc is an odd one to follow. I was obsessed with him when he did "Om" on the Lyricist Lounge compilation, and later when he did "Coded Language" with Krust, but his first album was a let-down at best, because the aesthetic he built by combining visceral spoken word with drum-n-bass production was nothing he aimed to stay loyal to, so the rest of the album was black rock like Living Color or Lenny Kravitz. All of those references would be horribly dated now.
His self-titled album laid the foundation for the sound he would build on from then forward, which is a sort of lo-fi electronic punk, with flourishes of of industrial, rap, and other odds and ends. That album largely dropped his dated 90's side in favor of something more on-the-pulse that connected the past and future of music.
After that he did the Niggy Tardust album with Trent Reznor, which I think most of us can agree was pretty great. However, they were largely doing industrial rap, which is a tricky genre not to nail sound-wise, but just tricky to know who to align yourself with. It was an avant guarde move in that sense, to come out at a turbulent time as the CD format was dieing. This is important to point out, because the album was very long (typical of CD format), and Saul is clearly as long-winded as they come anyway. So, the album gave me even more than I asked for, and I got full on it.
So, Niggy Tardust was a total success in nearly every way, except leaving me hungry for more. If you put it in your iPod on shuffle then it will come up constantly, and his voice doesn't always "play-well" with others. So, my friends (whom I initially turned-on to Saul only really started to like him as Niggy Tardust due to them associating him with Trent Reznor starting back when Saul opened for Nine Inch Nails) told me he had a new album out, but each of my friends was saying something totally different about it.
So, I got a copy, and put it in the car for a roadtrip with my wife and I. We were both too tired of his voice to really stay open-minded about it, and thus we ejected it before the album was even done. I revisited it for a second listen, while I was scouring for unique contributions to a mixtape, and I ended up using that Rocket song due to it's strong beat and hook.
Don't get me wrong though, I can recognize that this is Saul being really accessible. In many ways he is returning to fix what went wrong when he dabbled in rock on his first album, buy pulling in ideas from far beyond the spectrum of black rock. Although this is far from J-pop, it sort of has a Japanese X Sonic-Youth vibe almost like he is being backed by Cibo Matto. He does still mix in some of that industrial rap, but his allegiances are now more confusing. I always felt that Saul had enough to be a solo artist, obviously, but he functions best as part of a collective. Just because he can write novels of awesome lyrics does not mean that he is immune to excess.
I only wish my enthusiasm for his voice and his presence had survived this long, to what appears to be his best album, but Niggy Tardust came in so hard and went out so soft, that I only copped a free download of this new one. For someone who went so crazy over "Om," "Coded Language," "List of Demands," and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (to name but a few), it feels really defeating to be holding this album that seems like the artists best, but that I hardly care about, and that not many publications seem to care about either.
I still think he could get me excited again, with the right collaborators, but I just can't take another album of his rough singing and long-winded preachy rambling. I wish he had written these songs for someone else to sing/say. I just can't, in good faith, tell anyone this is stellar and they should get it. Save your money and go see him lecture; his lectures are still riveting.