What does it sound like?:
This review presents something of a dilemma.
Bargepole asked if I was interested in reviewing the latest record by a band called Me and My Friends, presumably as it has various world music influences and a lead guitarist who has picked up some West African highlife technique. The catch is I don’t like it much so first, I feel a bit bad slagging these peoples effort, after all, they all look like smiley, healthy well scrubbed nice people and second, why review it for the blog if I don’t like it? So I’ve sought to open up the discussion into the broader topic of the merits of the world fusion style.
I advised BP that when I hear the term World fusion I usually want to run in the opposite direction. Having listened to this latest effort from the band Me and My Friends I think I need to take up training again. Look Up is, I think, the fourth release from this group and it is inoffensive enough, but that’s the problem – there is no substance to this light airy, breezy stuff.
Let me quote from the website “Me and My Friends play soulful, poignant and gloriously danceable music, subtly referencing many styles, including vintage Ghanaian highlife, Jamaican roots and Afro-Brazilian folk. The UK-based quintet create a timeless sound with a global outlook, performed with an infectious energy, and the result is instantly recognisable, highly original and truly genre-defying.
They go on to quoteLoose Ends as describing their music as “life-affirming”. I mean what the fuck does that even mean? Nothing.
The mainstay of the quintet is Nick Rasle on guitar and vocals. He can play and has an unusual voice at times reminding me of the high pitched fragility of Karen Dalton or maybe even Billie Holiday and at other times a more traditional English folk voice. And this where they are best when they stick to their roots as evidenced on the last track “Sometimes”. My beef with this record and this particular type of world fusion is that it is bit of everything and not enough of anything. A nice Congolese styled guitar motif such as on Look Up can give way to some cello, maybe a reggae sounding keyboard vamp, an emasculated afrobeat groove or perhaps some fey samba sounding stuff. Songs start off promisingly then other stuff gets thrown in so, to these ears, they don’t much sound like proper songs and are quite forgettable.
What does it all *mean*?
Perhaps the problem with this and pretty much all international fusion stuff, where the artists don’t have their roots in the musical styles they are incorporating, is that it lacks substance.Look, you could put this record on and have no reason to take it off, but you’d have no reason to stop and listen, or to put it on again.
Goes well with…
Concentrating on something else
Might suit people who like…
Background music for bookshops or cafes.