Thursday, February 6, 2003
Groove Armada, once again, move into unpredictable musical territories. After selling over 1.2 million albums and suffering a spell of disillusion, the buoyant duo have regained their surging confidence with their fourth full-length release, LoveBox. Tom Findlay and Andy Cato have concocted an album that sounds great bouncing off the walls of a club or your home.
Appropriately named after a bi-monthly club night that Findlay and Cato throw in London, the album is filled with feel-good vibes and slick, clever digitronics. Opening with the shady rhythm guitar strut of "Purple Haze"(thankfully not a Hendrix cover) and laced with samples of Status Quo, the lyrics of MCs Red Rat and Nappy Roots set the pace of the album, cleverly proclaiming, "You can cut your split ends, you can''t cut your roots." Following is the sultry punch and bounce of shattered beats of "Groove Is On," featuring Kriminul and Neneh Cherry.
And if you were a huge fan of the older "At The River" shimmer of Groove Armada''s chilled out atmospherics, you will adore "Remember," a nostalgic lament filled with the soft-hearted samples of "Autopsy" by Fairport Convention.
Neneh Cherry appears again with her lounge-like croon in "Think Twice," then the album quickly switches into the clubbin'' exhalations of "Final Shakedown" before dropping the hype back down a notch with the folky grooves of vocalist Richie Havens in "Hands Of Time."
While the first half of LoveBox hosts a variety of musical flavors, the rest of the album continues to primarily cater to a clubbin'' disposition. The duo leave its listeners the best for towards the end with the spiraling disco strings and soaring vocals of Sunshine Anderson in "Easy."
Highly crafted, LoveBox has that trademark subtly that Groove Armada is so well known for with intertwining sythlines and slick house beats. Closing the album is the comical genius of "But I Feel Good," mashing things up into a ska-tastic dancehall hullabaloo of hip hop beats and reggae horns.
Since the early beginnings of their debut release Northern Star (released on Tummy Touch Records in ''97), Groove Armada have shown a wide range of influences in their music. While many fans have been somewhat disappointed that they haven''t maintained that "chilled out" disposition that brought them acclaim, Groove Armada are having a blast making music that moves them.
While their last album Goodbye Country (Hello Nightclub) indicated where they were going musically, LoveBox continues that direction, showcasing their studio talents not only to set a mood but also to raise the roof with live hands-in-the-air moments and a gritty rock ''n'' roll synth edge. Upwards and outwards, the boys are here to rock.
Birdland | Favored Nations
If you''re reeling at the idea that this legendary and influential-beyond-description British Invasion band actually exists as a genuine entity--it''s true!
The first studio disc since Little Games in 1968, with two original members (Chris Dreja and Jim McCarty) with about half of the material here as remakes of their classics, this may be the oddest rock record in years. As the training ground for flashy British blues guitar players Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, the Yardbirds made history, well, history sort of repeats here with cameo after cameo from famous pickers. Steve Vai, Slash, Brian May, Joe Satriani and others solo over the band''s redone oldies (other than May''s version of "Mister, You''re a Better than I," an utter waste, and sure to send one back to the source for a brain-bleaching). The Yardbirds themselves, plus Jeff Beck on one track, acquit themselves on the others.
And do they ever. Flash-frozen in time, Dreja, McCarty and crew wax psychedelic and bluesy on "My Blind Life" and the disc''s closer "An Original Man (A Song For Keith)." Other than the digitized production, these tracks smack hard of classic English psyched out boogie blues and would fit on any of their ''60s albums with pride. What a concept--the venerable chestnuts are recreated into showcases for pointless twiddling, the new songs a bonafide snapshot of Swingin'' London circa 1967. A head-scratcher and a pleasant surprise, in equal doses.