First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2007, Volume 14, #8
Written by John Metzger
Wed August 15, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
Six years and several outings into its career, Bedouin Soundclash still is making music that fares best when it is taken in small doses. Its latest effort Street Gospels, for example, spans a mere 42 minutes, which is considerably short by today’s long-winded standards. Nevertheless, as the album reaches its midpoint, it begins to wear out its welcome. It’s not that Street Gospels has been front-loaded with Bedouin Soundclash’s best material, either. It’s just that the group’s approach is too monochromatic for its own good. Although the band attempts to fold everything from Britpop to punk into its Jamaican-dance-hall grooves, the results are diluted rather than bolstered by the diversity. Bedouin Soundclash’s songs simply aren’t edgy enough to appeal to fans of The Clash, nor are they soulful enough to attract the followers of Toots & the Maytals. Instead, they run together until they become an indistinct blur.
As was the case with its prior endeavors, rhythm and movement remain the prime motivators for Bedouin Soundclash. At its heart, Street Gospels exhibits the kind of laid-back, easy-going cheerfulness that increasingly has become associated in a cliché-like fashion with Carribean island resorts. As front man Jay Malinowski sends his voice sailing across the opening cut Until We Burn in the Sun (The Kids Just Want a Love Song), however, it appears, at least initially, as if the band has joined the masses by repositioning itself as a cross between U2 and Oasis. As the tune progresses, it becomes equally clear that the group merely has tightened up its songs in a bid for mainstream exposure.
Sometimes — as in the case of the Clash-evoking Gunships; the sunshine-splattered jubilance of Bells of 59; or the Paul Simon-kissed pairing of Walls Fall Down and St. Andrews — Bedouin Soundclash’s material is made temporarily irresistible. In fact, the only real dud on the set is Hush, an a cappella track that strives to be a blues-y spiritual but ultimately sounds like fodder for a boy band. There’s no question that Street Gospels has its moments, and taken individually, its songs sound great, even if they don’t leave much of a lasting impression. In the end, it’s not a terribly good album, but it is just the sort of thing that will survive the random shuffle of an iPod play list.
Street Gospels is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box