Skeletons in the jukebox
“Skeletons” provides a forum for local musicians, artists, record-store owners, etc., to erase cool points by expressing their unseemly affection for an unhip album from their past.
Hall and Oates’ Voices, by singer/songwriter Joel Underwood
“The early ’80s in the urban South were a confusing time for a young man. How much stubble is too much? Would Don Johnson shave after three or four days? At what point does it stop being a mullet and just become ‘long hair?’ I was negotiating my way through these treacherous waters when Voices came out, and songs like ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ and ‘Kiss on My List’ blew up my world. … The hooks, the hooks, oh the glorious, caramel, velcro-on-the-mind hooks! My songwriting would never be the same.
“H&O are still around, still recording, still touring. They didn’t change the world. They didn’t stop Apartheid (though they were under no circumstances gonna play ‘Sun City,’ as I recall), and they took few risks after ‘Sara Smile.’ But they were the undisputed masters of those choruses, bridges and lyrical lines that became musical default settings for a generation.”
Toubab Krewe, Toubab Krewe: Four Stars
• Genre(s): Afro-Pop, Rock
• You’ll like it if: You don’t mind young white guys messing with West African traditionals.
• Defining song: “Hang Tan” – Surf-rock meets Mali on this cleverly titled tune. It’s also the only nontraditional song on the album.
I confess I took the “Titanic” approach to Toubab Krewe. As with the movie, I was told by every outlet (mouth, print, subliminal) to go see this band. So I didn’t.
But, unlike with Titanic, the wait was worth it. The members of Toubab Krewe (a hybrid of former bands Count Clovis and Common Ground) gleaned much of their inspiration from their pilgrimages to West Africa. All but one of the songs on the album are reworked African traditionals, using traditional instrumentation.
Although the main beat has been tilled before by the likes of Ali Farka Toure, the band’s reverence for the music is undeniable. The dirty-South injection is what makes Toubab original (multi-instrumentalist Justin Perkins calls it “Afro-cowboy-ninja-surf music”). It also attracts a wide swath of listeners by creating a scholarly complexity for the shoegazers while summoning heavy dance grooves for the restless.
For more about Toubab Krewe, read Alli Marshall’s feature story.
One Leg Up, Gypsy Blue: Three Stars
• Genre(s): Pre-WWII French Gypsy Jazz
• You’ll like it if: Django Reinhardt’s music runs like a 24-hour carousel in your head.
• Defining song: “Belleville” — a Django original wherein the band takes the Parisian jazz style and glides with it.
Any group that tries to base their style on Django Reinhardt’s and Stephane Grappelli’s music must be lauded — unless they’re really bad. Luckily, this local sextet very competently evokes lost-era envy.
Still, the compositions belong to others (e.g., Irving Berlin, Josef Myrow), and it’s more like a jazz-appreciation compilation than a breakthrough album. But One Leg Up is still in its infancy (going on two years at the end of 2005), and hopefully some originals will spawn out of their toddler era.