A satisfyingly roosty, late-summer soundtrack.
Jon Lusk 2009
Fans of New Zealand's most critically acclaimed band since The Clean have had a lengthy wait for the follow-up to their gorgeous international debut of 2005, Based on a True Story.
Wellington-based 'seven-headed soul monster' Fat Freddy’s Drop are renowned for taking their time to distil onstage jams into meticulously crafted studio creations, and once again that approach has paid off. Dr Boondigga & the Big BW is every bit as good as their last record.
The music is still based firmly in their uniquely sweet, relaxed mix of soul, reggae and jazz, but peppered with diverse new flavours, some obviously picked up on their globetrotting tours. Crucially, none of these novel influences feel like they’ve been forced by fashion, and Fat Freddy's Drop still make music with an unmistakeably South Pacific swing.
With most tracks clocking in at eight or nine minutes, and often traversing several moods, everything is woven into a seamless whole that makes perfect sense as one style flows into another. So it is that The Nod – arguably the album's highlight – somehow incorporates bluesy harmonica, P-funk synth squelches, a rap about food and fishing, and a wonderfully queasy Dixieland jazz cameo, all tied down by a deep, skanking groove.
The epic Shiverman is probably the most radical departure, driven by an organic, dubbed-up house beat, and featuring a fiery performance by lead singer Dallas Tamaira. Big BW airs another new direction, with its trippy broken beat/nu-soul feel rather reminiscent of D'Angelo, while Boondigga is an affectionate homage to producer Willie Mitchell's classic Memphis soul sound, best heard on Al Green's mid-70s albums.
As usual, references to family ties, culinary matters and the sea make up the bulk of the lyrical subjects. And even if Tamaira does rhyme “waters” with “daughters” on the highly aquatic, driving dub of The Raft, the way he chews and savours his words for maximum musicality throughout ensures he's still one of the most soulful singers of his generation.
This is a satisfyingly roosty, late-summer soundtrack, which could make it onto many an end-of-year list.