Easy Star Records, 2012
Don’t ask me any who-, what- or where-type questions about The Black Seeds; all I can readily find out from the Internet is how to order this new release. But they’re clearly a confident bunch; it takes courage to begin a reggae(ish) album with such a low-key, lugubrious, synthetic, trippy production as “Out of Light.” This isn’t exactly a welcoming, involving kind of song, after all. But fortunately the title track comes next, with an appealing melody, solid rhythm and nice balance of airy vocals, tinkling keys and down-to-earth horn riff. And after that is the relatively effervescent “Pippy Pip,” by the end of which we are almost ready to forgive the excesses of the album’s intro.
Ah, but then it’s back to square one, for next we get another downer – in tempo, lyric and vocal style. “The Bend” now takes its turn to offer the needed relief through some honest old-fashioned rock values. A lively, uplifting instrumental follows, and together these two form the highlight of the album for me, although “Gabriel’s Strut Dub” is a horn-driven (Gabriel, get it?) minor pleasure that comes soon after. I also like the r&b of “Cracks In Our Crown” and the Ike Turner-styled guitar of “Don’t Turn Around,” although the song itself is no more than one long vamp. The album closes to a final downer with enormously meaningful lyrics.
I know one cannot be at the peak of joviality all the time, however, and despite my grumpiness, be assured there is much more to like than dislike about Dust and Dirt. There’s rationality behind the album’s production and sequencing, and I can’t deny the musical creativity at play throughout. One last point: I am hesitant about labeling the album “reggae” because the strength of its reggae elements comes and goes, but you’d have sufficient reason to appreciate it in that mode if you’re so inclined.