Asian Dub Foundation Punkara Review

Released 2008.  

BBC Review

There's some incendiary fun to be had within.

Louis Pattison 2008

Back round about Asian Dub Foundation's heyday in the late 90s, it became something of a cliché to hail them as the closest the United Kingdom had to a modern-day, multicultural Clash or Sex Pistols, carrying the torch of punk rebellion. In ways this felt a little bit lazy – the idea any music that wore its political beliefs on its sleeve necessarily harked back to 1977 (and all that) felt like conservative thinking in itself: an attempt to bracket a band who set out to smash brackets wherever they found them. It's a little disappointing to report, then, that a decade on from their incendiary breakout album, 1998's Rafi's Revenge, ADF return with an album titled Punkara – a conflation of 'punk' and 'Bhangra' – that sounds like a genre cooked up by a music journalist in his lunch break.

Described by the band as ''a move away from club-oriented sounds'' in favour of a heavier, ska-punk/rap-rock sound, Punkara initially disappoints: frankly it's a bit Limp Bizkit, albeit with faster beats, and prone to lyrics that shun righteous polemic for the sort of clever-clever wordplay much beloved of nu-metal bands (see Altered Statesmen, all about world leaders and their predilection for chemical refreshment).

Still, while the overall shape of Punkara is something less than revolutionary, there's some incendiary fun to be had within. A cover of No Fun with Iggy Pop on vocals could have been a 'Why Bother?' moment, but ADF recreate the track with pounding Asian drums and blasting pipes, and to his credit Iggy doesn't seem to mind one bit. Album highlight, Speed Of Light, meanwhile, melds Bhangra strings, airy female vocals and jump-up drum 'n' bass tempos with a genuinely uplifting effect. Not their best record, but that Asian Dub Foundation are still fighting the fight is a thrill in itself.

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