The new album No Assembly Required finds original members James Lloyd and Curtis Hanson mining the same old smooth jazz vein they've been at for over two decades. But they haven't learned any new tricks and seem quite content to continue cranking out the same four and five minutes ditties that are the audio equivalent of sonic wallpaper. It just kind of hangs there and not until you try to pay attention to it does it hit you how dull and drab it really is.
A case in point is the take on Earth, Wind & Fire's "Devotion." It's the only track vocalist Tracy Hamlin appears on and even when she duets with Joe McBride, the mediocrity of the interpretation thuds like the Sunday newpaper being dropped on the front porch. You can't really say Hamlin is a bad singer. She only has one shot to claw through the tepid arrangement before she disappears for the rest of the album. What was the point of featuring her in the band group pictures when she's given almost nothing to do?
I'd like to tell you something about the ten other tracks, but honestly not one of them made any impression on me. Not negatively and not positively. James Lloyd's production is clean, but the nods to hip-hop as indicated by titles such as "Dyse It Up," "Swerve," and "Who U Wit?" are just half-hearted attempts at the idiom that talk the talk, but don't walk the walk. Unless it's garish or flamboyant, wallpaper doesn't usually command your attention. It's just kind of there and its presence doesn't mean any more than its absence. That's kind of the way Pieces of A Dream hits me.
Those that like their jazz innocuous and something that doesn't linger in the mind or move you emotionally---not even emotionally enough to dislike it, will find No Assembly Required perfect music to wash dishes by, rewire your home entertainment system or vacuum the living room to.
No assembly required. No impression left either.