Pearlene: For Western Violence and Brief Sensuality (High and Dangerous)
In the past four years since their eponymous debut was released, Pearlene has had to endure comparisons to the likes of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion as well as the punk-garage blues tag. But now, Reuben Glaser and company have matured like a good bottle of aged bourbon. It appears as if the members have been sitting in their woodsheds listening to their dad's old records as they consume cases of Stroh's. They're from Cincinnati but they play like a house band in the Kentucky backwoods used to smuggling moonshine. With a bit of indie cred now, they still carry enough honky tonk moxie to rock a country ass cowboy saloon like the one in Thelma and Louise. Apparently, they've had knowledge dropped on them from albums by Leon Russell, Coach Fingers and the Chess Records roster, and they barbecue it all up at a pie-eyed, shit kickin' punk rock square dance.
Imperial Teen: The Hair, the TV, the Baby & the Band (Sub Pop)
Imperial Teen sing and play like they're so much damn cooler than you, and, to some degree, they may be. Back after a five-year break, they still have a lazy pep flow on songs that sound like advertising jingles for a grocery store ("Do It Better") or show great love for The White Album ("Fallen Idol"). Comparisons to Stereolab are understandable, but where Stereolab make music for the futuristic, space age bachelor pads, Imperial Teen seductively tosses turpentine on all that to keep things stripped down. This is a heapin' helping of no-filler pop that sits easy and reigns snooty.
Femi Kuti: The Definitive Collection (Wrasse)
Nepotism is not a Kuti family value. Femi may be the son of Afrobeat pioneer and legend Fela Kuti, but he has no need to depend on the family name for his success, as this retrospective testifies. Not as super polyrhythmic as his pop, Femi's Afrobeat is more saturated in heavy tribal jazz and deep, introspective bass funk. Highlights include the somber but vibrant soul of "'97," titled after the year his father passed away along with his cousin and a younger sister that had cancer and was misdiagnosed and operated on for the wrong ailment. "Traitors of Africa" throws a blunt wave of defiance in the face of early '90s Nigerian dictator General Ibrahim Bababgida and subconsciously follows in the footsteps of Fela's "Zombies" from 1977. The songs are socially conscious and amongst the most powerful is "Stop AIDS," where a slithering organ and jiggling horns back Femi up as he denounces the religious institutions in Africa for prohibiting the use of condoms as AIDS is ravaging the continent. The bridging of cultures is rich with guests such as Common, D'Angelo, Macy Gray and Mos Def. The duet with Rachid Taha on "Ala Jalkoum" is a beautiful arrangement of emotive Arab rai music and North African desert folk. Also included is a second disc of remixes mostly in the fashion of deep house and dub.
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