Street Gospels by Bedouin Soundclash
Bedouin Soundclash hail from Canada, which lately would lead one to expect a form of indie rock (probably with clashing angular guitars and pleading, quite often grating, vocals, like The Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, or Wolf Parade [which is not to say that these bands haven’t released some fantastic albums]), however CDDB labels their album as “ska.” For the most part this is an apt description, and on one of the best tracks of the band’s third album Street Gospels, the jangly, catchy “St. Andrews,” they harken back to 80s ska groups like The Specials.
Standout tracks such as the opener “Until We Burn in the Sun (The Kids Just Want A Love Song)” are like cool modern updates of Screamadelica-era Primal Scream, combining reggae, dub, rock, psyschedelia, and soul into a cohesive whole. To call this song a “ska” song is to call what Matisyahu is doing simply “reggae.” Other outstanding tracks take some of those elements as their focus, like the dub-fused tracks “Jealousy and The Get Free,” “Midnight Rockers,” and “Gunships.” The band fairs less well on the more direct ska tracks, “Walls Fall Down” and “Nico and the Night Train,” but make up for those missteps with the beautiful, light reggae-folk of “12:59 Lullaby.” Unfortunately, while most of the songs individually are fantastic, the album never feels like a complete work. It lacks any sort of unity from track to track, instead seeming to nothing more than a collection of songs by a band in the midst of finding its footing and true sound. One could argue either way that this is due to the diverse range of talent they employed in the creation of the album, from Darryl Jenifer of Bad Brains, to Money Mark who’s worked and toured with The Beastie Boys, and Wade McNeil of The Black Lungs and Alexisonfire. All in all, there are no bad songs here, just songs which could have been replaced with much stronger tracks that would have held the album together more. Let’s hope they move in the direction of modern psychedelic dub rock for the next record.
Bonus: Check out this cool version of U2’s “New Year’s Day.”