The Outsider is either a concept record about musical schizophrenia or a warehouse for 18 of the most idiosyncratic productions of DJ Shadow's career. And, to complicate matters, many of them are excellent. Although it trails his second production LP by only four years, The Outsider sounds like it includes the detritus of a decade's worth of false starts: celebrity production jobs (one track was originally intended for Zack de la Rocha), anonymously released comeback singles (the regional radio hit "3 Freaks"), collaborations with art rock figures (Kasabian, Chris James from a band called Stateless, Christina Carter from Charalambides), and a cavalcade of talented guest vocalists and rappers who predictably underperform (or get overwhelmed by their productions).
One release date, two titans of turntablism, both releasing album number three. Don King might call it the Match of the Scratchers or the Vinyl Final. In the blue corner stands DJ Shadow, the Californian whose 1996 debut, Endtroducing, was conjured entirely from samples and set the tone for most instrumental hip-hop since. His 2002 follow-up, The Private Press, was similarly lauded.
Fingers squeaking across the lush reverb of melancholic acoustic guitars. Heavy metal double-pedal kick drum patterns. Bay Area rapper E-40. This sounds more like an i-Pod on shuffle play than tracks on a cohesive record – much less one from DJ Shadow. Nevertheless, The Outsider, Shadow’s third ….