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Seeing Sounds is the third album from N.E.R.D., the "artist" project from the members of production team the Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo), plus their buddy Shay Haley. It's the compact-disc equivalent of an ad campaign trying to appeal to the Red Bull/sorta grown and totally sexy/BlackBerry generation. "We gotta make it passionate," you can almost hear Williams telling the guys in the studio. "And retro. And political. You know, some really fucked-up, crazy, awesome nuts shit!" And so we get a song to bash Bush by ("Time for Some Action"), a track to snort coke off of supermodels ("Everybody Nose"), and a "thoughtful" Beatles­esque ballad ("Sooner or Later") to impress the left-wing Victoria's Secret babe on the ride home. The group's moniker has never been more appropriate; Seeing Sounds is all technique, no soul. Every sampler-tweaked and computer-manipulated moment feels micromanaged. The name of the album comes from a neurological condition in which someone can visualize what he hears. That's all well and good, but all N.E.R.D.'s listeners will see in their minds are images of these guys twisting knobs and babbling about how to bottle passion/rage/horniness/etc. on record. Human emotion, however, cannot be created on ProTools.


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