And so sole reemerges roughly two years after the aesthetic and critical breakthrough of his second album, Selling Live Water, having moved to Spain, married, and continued to refine his inimitable blurring of sarcasm and bone-dry honesty. The lion’s share of the music is, like Selling Live Water, laid down by odd nosdam (here coupling his trademark cut-and-paste-ups with the rumble of SP1200 drums) and alias, but sole has noticeably changed: the enflamed and verbose jeremiads of Selling Live Water have cooled slightly into a more reflective—and effortlessly funny—simmer. Live from Rome, recorded and produced both in Oakland, California and Barcelona, Spain, has heavier hooks and a noticeably broader palette, moving from upbeat, half-serious vegan anthems to the half-kidding faux-Eminem at the tail end of "i’msotired": "Still getting punched for shit I said in my last life;/ it wasn’t me, it was Vanilla Ice./ Haven’t slept since god made mics—/Nah, I haven’t slept since god gave me the mic."
In a March 2003 feature, sole told Rolling Stone that he had just written "a song modeled after John Lennon’s ‘Working Class Hero.’" He continued, "It's my folk attack on America." It’s anyone guess which, if any, of the songs on Live from Rome began as his version of "Working Class Hero," but it’s safe to say that none turned out to echo that song’s condescending artist-on-high sensibility. sole instead turns his sniper’s lens on what’s always been his prime target: himself, and more specifically for Live from Rome, the office of the artist native to an empire. This theme is the beating heart of the album and is apparent from the opening song’s hook—"My music, my music, is cheap entertainment," repeated amid a sea of Melle Mel grunt-laughs—to the closing track’s sighing summation, "such is life, it ends with my head on display."
Though sole still isn’t going to peddle a million records to the red states, his effort to place the personal and self-critical in the big and political helps him avoid singing to the choir; Alternative Press has noted that his "willingness to lyrically bust caps in the asses of the left as well as the right make him a fairly revolutionary revolutionary." Make no mistake: Live from Rome is a lyric volley of shots taken, but it’s thankfully lightened by his humor and ultimately made compelling by the beats—a rare mixture of the dynamic and the raw. Taken altogether, this very well may be one album worth surviving the future ruins of the new and improved Rome.