The Canadians synthesise disparate elements into a startlingly coherent whole.
Andrew Mueller 2011-05-18
It is almost laughably easy to imagine that Light the Horizon will be the album which bestows high-rotation global ubiquity upon Bedouin Soundclash. If this occurs, it will be largely on the strength of lead track Elongo, a languid summoning of sun-dappled paradise with a ruthlessly anthemic chorus, a song which sounds custom-manufactured to soundtrack the closing credits of an overwrought romance, or a commercial for coconut-flavoured chocolate.
If this, in turn, occurs, it will mean that many millions of people may come to regard the veteran Torontonian fusion outfit with the deranged loathing often provoked by inescapable fame. And this would be wretchedly unfair, as Elongo is by some margin the worst track on Light the Horizon. Elsewhere, Bedouin Soundclash’s fourth album bristles and fizzes with elegantly understated passion and deadpan punky fury, as the group pursue their muse to various ends of the musical Earth, evoking The Clash’s west London (Mountain Top), The Byrds’ California (May You Be the Road) and Rachid Taha’s Algeria (Fools Tattoo).
It’s a common failing of artists who embrace a music from beyond their shores to become ensnared by the genre’s clichés, as if unworthy or incapable of sullying the source. While a Canadian reggae troupe might be expected to suffer from this syndrome more than most, Bedouin Soundclash display symptoms with commendable rarity, correctly regarding their beloved touchstones as starting points, rather than finish lines. This is why and how Bedouin Soundclash are capable of the frail balladry of No One Moves, No One Gets Hurt, which has more in common with Radiohead’s quieter moments than just the baleful threat which serves as a title, and the Primal Scream-ish psychedelic voyaging of Follow the Sun.
The album’s peak is Brutal Hearts, a duet between Bedouin Soundclash’s vocalist Jay Malinowski and Canadian chanteuse Beatrice Martin (aka Coeur de Pirate). It’s a sinuous and witty study of dysfunction, which sounds something like Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra attempting Europop: not for the first or only time on this album, Bedouin Soundclash synthesise disparate elements into a startlingly coherent whole.