Music » Record Reviews

Short Cuts

Classic-soul fanatics achieve the impossible: produce classic soul.


Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings


Pairing a journeyman singer with a band full of young soul fans, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings is the kind of band easily overrated, their intentionally vintage sound and record-collector album art suggesting the kind of soul band aiming for indie-rock record stores and college radio.

But where the band's 2002 debut Dap-Dappin' was the kind of spirited re-creation you felt comfortable filing under "Squirrel Nut Zippers for soul freaks," Naturally is something far more graceful and powerful. As vintage soul in a modern world, not only does it tower above recent comebacks by Solomon Burke and Ike Turner; it even bests Al Green.

Jones has a voice that isn't quite Aretha-worthy but can battle any other female soul star of the '60s and '70s to a dead draw. Her band may not be quite on a par with the rhythm sections of Stax, Motown, or Muscle Shoals, but they're a lot hotter -- and more inventive -- than any band of suit-wearing retro-fetishists have any right to be. And bandleader Bosco Mann writes songs you assume must be lost of-the-era classics with the same loving skill as the Reigning Sound's Greg Cartwright.

The moldy, figgish "terrible wrong turn" rhetoric in the album's liner notes is a real drag (Granddad, please tell us 'bout the good ol' days!). But listen to the way the horn section punches the gaps of the galloping drum and bass interplay on "Natural Born Lover," to the deep soul duet (with Lee Fields) "Stranded in Your Love," the slow-burn balladeering of "You're Gonna Get It," and the unmistakable Stax-like grooves of "Fish in My Dish," and even the most retro-skeptical new-music devotee will be happy to take a trip in this time machine. All defenses dissolve in the face of "How Long Do I Have To Wait For You?," the best song I've heard so far this year, a subtle rhythmic chaos floating smooth under a blissed-out pop-soul vocal, with horn grace notes and guitar squiggles biding time until those instruments are granted their own little spotlights. -- Chris Herrington

Grade: A-

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings play the Hi-Tone Café Saturday, February 5th.


Blood Brothers


The noise genre has been around forever, and it used to be alternately scary, stupid, and awe-inspiring. The first Throbbing Gristle album still creeps me out, and Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music is still a record-label-enraging farce of little use. In the '80s and '90s, tiny labels and individuals pressed up countless LPs of completely free-form, discordant sonic wash made by unsexed sociopathic outsiders that drew an average of five people to any live performance. And then there were bands like New Zealand's Dead C, who were sensuous, wonderful, and hair-raising and fall into that "awe-inspiring" category.

The noisy fringe, over the past few years, has developed a fashion sense and is attracting a large audience that, a decade back, would have been attending your standard hardcore shows. This is especially true for Blood Brothers. A month or two back, Spin "broke the story" on something they call "noisecore." The prominent bands in the feature were Wolf Eyes, Lightning Bolt, the Locust, Black Dice, Hair Police, and Blood Brothers. While all are very atonal and stridently uncommercial, only Wolf Eyes and Hair Police toil in pure noise, but a healthy spread in Spin means something.

Blood Brothers are structured, maybe too structured. The improvisation of some "noisecore" is not present here. Technically, this is A.D.D. prog-rock. Most musical thoughts on Crimes last around 30 seconds, only to drop away and reappear in another form later. Furious hardcore opens up to weird merry-go-round pop, and there's feedback and noise and squeals and screaming and unbridled energy to spare at every turn. It's impossible to stress the degree of energy on Crimes. Dual vocals bounce between one quasi-standard singer/yeller and a second guy who just goes bonkers with a Rick James/tortured-housecat hybrid. It's a triumph of our times and taste that a big label gets behind a record like this. But popularity is relative. Trust me, I just came off of a cruise ship, and I wasn't tempted to regale other guests with my review copy of Crimes. n -- Andrew Earles

Grade: B+

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