October 26, 2010 - PIrates Blend
The last few years have been both cruel and kind to Bedouin Soundclash. The reggae/world-music trio saw some incredible chart successes in their home country of Canada and in the U.K. with 2007’s Street Gospels, culminating in nominations for several Junos (the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy), and several European festival appearances. But, as things wound down, so did relationships within the band. Founding drummer Pat Pengelly left and frontman Jay Malinowski exorcised his inner demons with a solo album (2010's Bright Lights And Bruises).
Now that they are back together with a new drummer (Sekou Lumumba), Bedouin seem ready to shed their previous skin and move forward. For the first time in years, they are working with a producer other than Bad Brains member Daryl Jenifer, opting instead for Philadelphia-based funkster King Britt. At the same time, they have almost completely divested themselves of any musical concepts that could be considered at all unpalatable by their fans and listeners. It makes for a work that is easy on the central nervous system, but doesn't leave behind any residue that would make it a regular staple in your iTunes rotation.
Much of this lax feeling spurs from the fact that Lumumba is a far less inventive drummer than his predecessor. The Toronto native has a strict regimen of bobbing reggae beats and quick-pattered fills that fit the songs well, but don't challenge his bandmates in any way. In response, Malinowski settles in with reverb-sweetened rhythm guitar lines and loping, lover's-rock vocals. Too, Britt has encouraged the band to embrace that more R&B-influenced sound, stuffing much of their dub and Afrobeat elements into the background. On occasion, it pays off dividends, as with the lovely "Brutal Hearts" (a duet with a young singer named Beatrice Martin) and the album's string-drenched ballad "Elongo." But all too often it feels like the band are ignoring the part of their name that gives them carte blanche to experiment and toy with expectations.