A deadpan and brilliantly realised summary of that rare thing: a unique band.
Jaime Gill 2008-04-17
Insert Hits And Exit Wounds into iTunes and the genre comes up as 'unclassifiable', which is at least briefer than Alabama 3's own preference of being a 'punk rock, blues and country techno situationist crypto-Marxist-Leninist electro band'. As this hits collection proves, the Brixtonites are one of those rare bands - like the Pixies, early Suede or Klaxons - who construct their own sonic and thematic universe and make you want to live in it.
In the case of Alabama 3, it's a universe where the ghost of Johnny Cash stalks Brixton bars and bedsits, where grizzly harmonicas, house and hip hop co-exist, and where the religion is pro-outlaw, pro-hedonist and righteously anti-hippy. First track Hypo Full Of Love sets out their stall: a swampy groove, American accents turned up to 11 and more drug references than you'll find in a shelf full of medical dictionaries.
And while it's usually best to avoid bands who put as much effort into jokes as melodies, Alabama 3 are an exception, because both are usually so good. Take U Don’t Danse To Tekno Anymore, a tear-stained, whisky-soaked country ballad for an ageing clubber, filled with laugh out loud lines like ''808 and 303 ain't the friends they used to be''. Or how about the inspired debut single, Ain't Goin To Goa, a gospel epic which witheringly dissects backpacker culture as: ''some fool lying on some Third World beach''?
Which isn't to say Alabama 3 can't be serious. The bluesy, impassioned Woody Guthrie indicts gung ho patriotism, race hate and global inequality, before ending with the glorious (and increasingly necessary) cry of ''sing a song for the asylum seeker… pray they reach safe harbour''. And though Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlife is built on a laboured pun, there's nothing glib about its melancholy piano figure and sweltering bassline.
Hits And Exit Wounds isn't perfect. A few tracks could probably have been cut (notably the grating Ska'd For Life) and all the punning, drugs and hipster references become wearying after a while, like being trapped in a lift with Quentin Tarantino for a week. But at its best it's a deadpan and brilliantly realised summary of that rare thing: a unique band.