Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad2012

A promotional blurb refers to In These Times as Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad’s “new psychedelic reggae album.” Sure enough, it’s reggae, and of a very attractive kind, but it seems I no longer have a clue what “psychedelic” means. Maybe it refers to the slightly esoteric instrumentation, which includes Hammond B3 organ, clavinet, synthesizer and mbira. Or maybe to the slightly esoteric structure of most songs, with a more-or-less extended break halfway along that goes beyond mere bridge and becomes (possibly) an emulation of Grateful Dead’s improvisational style, although really it’s just a sort of dub.

Or perhaps the psychedelia arises from the oh-so-tricky half-minute of silence after the last listed track before a final musical snippet. Or from the multi-tracking of the lead vocal, or the organized chaos in the middle of track 5. Or from the way the guitar goes wah-wah and does other fun stuff. Surely it’s not the counter-culture we-need-a-revolution lyrics, which have been standard fare for a while. So although I don’t know where that label comes from, I do really like the music. But then any long-time reggae lover is bound to appreciate a track listing that includes neither a “Babylon Burn” nor a “Collie Weed” but does include a “Next Best Explosion” and a “Moonshine” (not actually about likker).

Call this album psychedelic if you want, but as long as you think more Lee Scratch Perry than Jefferson Airplane and more Kingston than San Francisco, you’ll have no reason to trip out, or be tripped up, or whatever. The melodies are (mostly) fresh, the playing is spirited, and the rhythms are skanking good.