Unremarkable psychedelic retro soul from New York.
Chris Power 2009-06-29
Formed in New York by DJs Daniel Collás and Sean Marquand, The Phenomenal Handclap Band is aiming for a sound approximating Rare Earth, the hugely successful Motown act that straddled the divide between post-psychedelic rock 'n' roll and funk in the early 1970s. Falling well short of this, however, they wind up in the same benighted funk-pop territory as Norman Cook's unmourned acid jazz outfit Freak Power.
Even with support from TV on the Radio – drummer Jaleel Bunton plays guitar on Testimony – The Phenomenal Handclap Band's eponymous debut remains stolidly unimpressive for its entire duration (an hour, but it feels more like eight). From the ponderous opening instrumental The Journey to Serra Da Estrela, through to the cheesy electro funk of All of the Above and the horn-led sub-Al Green manoeuvres of Baby, this is an album that suggests its creators have great record collections, but crucially lack the ability to convert good taste in other people's music into decent compositions of their own.
Pre-release buzz around the album focused on the single 15 To 20, with its infectious playground-style vocal. Even the catchiness of this track, though, has an annoying element to it, with Lady Tigra's almost apologetically rapped verses carrying a ripe whiff of Len's 1999 hit Steal My Sunshine. The scuzzy organ and low-slung bassline of closing track The Circle is Broken begins to head somewhere purposeful, but is betrayed by a lacklustre vocal that robs it of its power.
Considering the amount of people roped in to help record this album – members of Calla, Moony Suzuki, Sí Se, Amy Winehouse's backing band and the aforementioned TV on the Radio and vintage Miami bass duo L'Trimm – perhaps it's a case of too many cooks. If you were feeling maniacally generous it could be claimed that Dim The Lights settles into a passable glam rock groove and that the drumming throughout has a pleasing funky solidity to it, but even then you'd have to conclude that most of this album is dross. Listen to Rare Earth's Get Ready and Shuggie Otis's Inspiration Information and you'll hear much of what's attempted here done many, many times better.