Album Reviews

Genesis Owusu – Struggler

(Ourness) UK release date: 18 August 2023

Rock-rap crossovers, lyrics about being an insect – what’s not to like?

Genesis Owusu - Struggler Rarely a welcome presence in one’s house but often grudgingly respected for their slightly apocryphal resilience, cockroaches are the main point of inspiration for Ghanaian-Australian Genesis Owusu’s new record. Although Genesis has described Struggler as a work of fiction – “It’s a world that lives on its own, I separated myself from it” – it isn’t hard to decode the metaphorical resonance, as he touches on topics such as nihilism, perseverance and mortality.

The Roach does a very good job of outlining the premise over chugging guitars and driving drums (“Feeling like Gregor Samsa / a bug in the cog of a grey-walled cancer”). The effect is both unsettling and catchy, punchy and cerebral, especially when vocal harmonies take centre-stage near the end of the track. Meanwhile What Comes Will Come is something of a turning point, as our protagonist decides to stop fretting about what he has no control over. Organ chords ring out somewhat triumphantly, rapid-fire breakbeats syncopate underneath, and in the dark, brutish world depicted this is as close to enlightenment as we’re going to get.

The production is consistently high-quality, cycling through myriad styles with ease. Opening track Leaving The Light is suitably apocalyptic in tone, an angular synth ostinato complimenting frantic beats and enough hissing sounds to rival a faulty gas tank. See Ya There, by contrast, has the languid demeanour of a slow jam, the interplay of guitar and electric piano utterly addictive underneath Genesis’ falsetto delivery (“Can’t catch my breath, I’ve been in orbit for hours / I’ll scorch the sun to dig my hand on the moon”).

Near the mid-section come several tracks that incorporate a 4×4 groove, and Tied Up!’s Prince-esque guitars and That’s Life (A Swamp)’s erratic synth bass are both inspired choices. Genesis’ ability to inhabit these distinct soundworlds also deserves kudos – while the more peppy sound is an interesting foil for lyrics that show no sign of cheering up, he never once sounds out of place.

The extent to which this record succeeds might be down to expectations. It isn’t a concept album in the traditional sense, and narrative is thin on the ground, but among these musically diverse tracks there is a good deal of thematic cohesion, food for thought and imaginative lyricism. With Struggler Genesis Owusu has followed through on his potential, and hopefully won’t be getting the boot from listeners anytime soon.

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More on Genesis Owusu
Genesis Owusu – Struggler
Genesis Owusu – Smiling With No Teeth