The Internet is the hardest band to be a fan of for one simple reason. Not because their music is problematic, not because they make questionable career choices, but because of two simple words: their name. What’s in a name? A lot of social faux pas apparently. On more than one occasion I have mindlessly asked a friend “Have you ever heard of The Internet?” to recieve the blankest of stares. Only a few days ago I put on their newest album Hive Mind in the background while helping my mom prepare dinner; she asked me what we were listening to and my completely honest response was met with a curt “thanks, smartass.”
Yet despite their poor search engine optimization, The Internet and its individual members have been making musical tidal waves recently. Thankfully I can now type “The Internet” into Google and the band’s website pops up as the first result. Drop the “The,” however, and you’ll probably get a confused FBI agent wondering if the 19-year-old kid they were assigned to is actually a computer illiterate 65-year-old grandma.
Once described as “what people thought [Odd Future] was” by lead vocalist Syd, The Internet has its roots in Tyler, the Creator’s (seemingly defunct) hip-hop Sandlot. What began as Syd and percussionist/keyboardist Matt Martians’ side project has now evolved into a Grammy-nominated group rounded out by the multitalents Patrick Paige II and Christopher Smith and guitarist Steve Lacy, the latter of whom was buzzed about last year for producing Kendrick Lamar’s “PRIDE” on his iPhone. Gaining steam with 2015’s breezy Ego Death and a healthy output of solo projects — Steve Lacy’s Demo, Syd’s Fin and Martians’ The Drum Chord Theory were among 2017’s subtle standouts — The Internet is a on a roll, and with their latest effort, only getting funkier.
When paired with Ego Death, Hive Mind’s title makes it seem like the second installment in a conceptual Jungian psychology trilogy, but don’t be mistaken. The album is as accessible as the Motown classics it follows in the footsteps of and rich in lyrical meaning and masterfully melded production. The band’s five members simply gel together, pooling their collective talent and playfully bouncing off each other to craft music that evolves the joint sound while retaining individual flair.
Lead single “Come Over” is a perfect example of the group’s united psyche: Lacy’s work on guitar and bass presents itself as a Super Mario 64-esque endless staircase of twangs and thumps, carpeted by Martians’ staggered drum patterns, all while Syd and her effortlessly cool vocals casually saunter up it. “We can play Simon Says / or watch TV in bed” implores Syd to her nameless Juliet in the song’s music video, as she stands hands-in-pockets like a lost Romeo on a suburban lawn. When Syd finally gets her crush to perform the titular action, the house literally spins around the camera, revealing the other four band members with their respective boos in simple, lovely vignettes.
Hive Mind is invitingly hypnotic, lulling you into a spectrum of trance with “cut a rug” on one end and “reminisce under the glow of the moonlight” at the other. Songs are anchored by a singular drum loop, guitar riff or bassline, but offer enough variation to steer away from repetitiveness. While each bandmember tended to stay in their own musical lane on Ego Death, with Hive Mind there’s a certain fluidity to stave off that pigeonholing. Four out of the five members are responsible for the drums on at least one of the tracks. Other than Syd, the only other lead vocalists that could be heard on their previous effort were the guest features; now Lacy is the main attraction on certain tracks like “Roll (Burbank Funk)” and “Beat Goes On” and he bounces back and forth with Syd on “La Di Da.”
While they take a bit of backseat, Syd’s vocals are more refined than ever with this record. “It Gets Better (With Time),” an anthem for lost souls everywhere, sees her croon “We ain’t got time today / Throw on your darker shades and smile for the camera” in a deeply personal manner. The twofer “Next Time / Humble Pie” functions like the bookends of relationship, transitioning from the joyful summer day when she worked up the courage to talk to her crush to the bleak night when Syd realized she was finally fed up with the games. Songs like “Wanna Be” and “Mood” explore romantic themes that have been done to death in modern music, but Syd hones them down to their essence and masterfully tiptoes the line between unique and relatable.
It’s easy to get lost in Hive Mind — almost too easy, in fact, as songs on the back half of the album drag on for a tinge too long and the uncomplicated nature of the music as a whole makes it easy to forget what you’re listening to. The Internet nonetheless knows not to overstay their welcome, capping their magic act at 13 tracks. Although most of the songs push four, five minutes, they’re almost guaranteed to have a switch-up of sorts that keeps everything fresh. Album closer “Hold On” is 14 seconds shy of being seven minutes long, but intersperses enough drum booms and baps, horns and synthesizers to make you want to listen to it all the way through. Hive Mind is a vast field of sunflowers; drive past it and the seemingly endless vibrancy becomes normalized but stop to take it all in and the natural warmth and beauty is plain overwhelming.
Harkening back to the “Come Over” video, which associates each musician and their surroundings with a certain color (Paige in green, Smith in purple, etc.), the band’s key function is revealed. It’s a reverse prism of sorts, absorbing the five rays of individual talent and channeling it into the brightest beam of light. The Internet has become a shining beacon of musical cohesion, coming together to play their hearts out and staying true to their selves above all.