Album Reviews : ** The Pharcyde, “Labcabincalifornia,” Delicious Vinyl.


The only thing trickier in hip-hop than using subtlety is getting away with it twice. Arrested Development, Digable Planets and De La Soul all arrived with bracing debuts, only to stumble with their follow-ups.

So how does this L.A. group (which plays the House of Blues on Monday) follow its playful, clever 1992 debut, “Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde”? By getting even subtler. The pleasures aren’t so immediate nor the ride so bizarre. And on first listen the casually delivered, low-key narratives nearly vanish into the background.

But stick with it and the little things emerge as big attractions: the frisky singing and understated bossa-nova feel of “Runnin’,” the street-corner chorus on the sexy escapade “She Said,” the tinkling piano underscoring the way-laid-back “Splattitorium.” More crucially, there’s a unifying sense of purpose in these tales of non-gangsta life in L.A., summed up in “Something That Means Something.”


It would have helped to back up that statement with something a bit bolder, but maybe daring to be delicate when overkill is the order of the day is bold enough.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).