One of the most enjoyable reggae albums of 2011 so far.
David Aaron 2011-06-01
In 2006, Hollie Cook – daughter of Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook – succumbed to her inherent rebellious impulses, dropping out of performing arts school to join reformed punk quartet The Slits as backing vocalist and keyboardist; she appeared on their EP, Revenge of the Killer Slits. Subsequent collaborations with Ian Brown and Jamie T have created a platform from which the singer can now release her self-titled debut.
Her label, Mr Bongo, refers to her sound as "tropical pop"; yet this record’s self-penned tracks break free of this relatively narrow genre. Much is owed to the wizardry of producer Prince Fatty, who magnificently weaves 60s-style dub, ska and reggae beats around Cook’s hauntingly beautiful psychedelic melodies.
There are few surprises across these nine tracks, but gems can be found nonetheless. Part of the album’s subtle charm is that it refuses to detour from formulaic reggae, Cook avoiding the genre-defying grandiosity many new acts employ, instead choosing to enhance rather than revolutionise. Her uplifting cover of The Shangri-Las’ (Remember) Walkin’ in the Sand captivates immediately, outshining the darker original – the album’s cornerstone, it’s a foetal festival anthem.
Cry (disco mix), featuring Horseman, is archetypal reggae: horn-packed and littered with sharp percussion, its vocal harmonies enslaving the listener to the rhythm. Sugar Water (Look at My Face) is a dub workout reminiscent of Beats International’s Dub Be Good to Me, whilst the muted basslines and scatty drums on debut single That Very Night lift the song from the melancholy of its lyrical content.
Milk and Honey is a welcomed inclusion, the Cook-featuring track previously an underground reggae hit for Prince Fatty; it gained wider attention courtesy of its use in US television show Grey’s Anatomy. The song stands as a showcase for this set’s lyrical themes: its message of salvation from darkness encapsulates the feel-good factor of what’s on offer.
The masterful presence of The Pioneers’ George Dekker, alongside Dennis Bovell and Omar, adds to this newcomer’s authenticity. Yet Cook’s own abundant talent comes through clearly enough, ensuring her debut is one of the most enjoyable reggae albums of 2011 so far.