Monday, May 20, 2019

The Respectables release The Power of Rock ‘N’ Roll (LP)

The Respectables really weren’t doing themselves any favors in their last record Sibley Gardens, but in The Power of Rock ‘N’ Roll, their latest full-length album, they wisely play to the handful of strengths that have gotten them this far in the industry with moderately positive results. While there’s a bit of excess where I was least expecting to find it here – the acoustic wailer “Limousine,” the haggard hybrid “Mardi Gras” and Steppenwolf-style “Give Some” – there are also moments of genuine originality, such as in the pop-rocking “That Girl” and jittery “The Shotgun Seat.” The Power of Rock ‘N’ Roll doesn’t live up to its name by any stretch of imagination, but it’s got enough zeal to qualify it as an accessible offering from a band that seems to be headed (mostly) in the right direction.

Though slightly overproduced, “Oasis,” “As Good as Love Gets” and the countrified “18 Wheeler” (which sports a really sweet swing in its rhythm) are a lot more streamlined and concise than anything we’ve heard from The Respectables before. “Wheel in My Hand” drags on longer than it needs to because of its cringe-worthy abuse of a blues riff, but disappointing tracks like this one are balanced out by more acerbic material like “Highway 20.” The title track has got the bones of a classic rock song, and even though I would have made the drums a little less prominent in the master mix, the hook that serves as the song’s bread and butter gives it a texture that I really wish I could have heard more of across the tracklist.

It’s not an album that would recommend to anyone other than diehard supporters of the band, but The Power of Rock ‘N’ Roll is nevertheless a big upgrade for The Respectables’ nonsensical Sibley Gardens, which contained only shades of the focused style of attack that this record’s most sterling songs employ liberally. The gap in time between the two LPs gave the group some time to hone their craft a little more and get into a more relevant mode as songwriters, and possibly in this second phase of their career, they’ll at last find the perfect counterbalance between alternative rock and traditional pop that has evaded them so torturously for the last thirteen years.

Joshua Beach

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Victor PEDRO releases “Call Me, I Miss Ya!”

Like sparkling city lights, sparse synthesized notes flicker and dance in surreal slow-motion in the intro to “Call Me, I Miss Ya!,” Victor PEDRO’s brand new single. Somewhere in the background, a vocal harmony is growing out of the silence and cutting into our hearts from afar. The melody is warm, but the tone of the instruments is cold, removed from this world and unlike the vivacious vocal that will come soaring into the sky only moments away from now. Victor PEDRO is engaging all of our senses in “Call Me, I Miss Ya!,” and if you thought that he couldn’t top some of his previously released material, you’d better brace yourself for the most dynamically stylish single released thus far in his career.

PEDRO repeats himself more than once in the lyrics to this song, but it isn’t because he’s aimlessly looking for words to fill up the space in the track; in fact, quite the contrary indeed. To emphasize his point, he will reiterate a statement once, twice, even three times if he deems it necessary, and rather than elaborating on his point by getting descriptive in his adjacent verses, he keeps his commentary as sharp and uncompromising as he can. PEDRO doesn’t want to bore us with a lot of patronizing placations or, for that matter, a stale beat that’s been reheated after a decade in the freezer (see the new Logic collaboration for such trite dribble). Instead, this Nigerian singer and songwriter is pushing his sound into the experimental, and coming up with some wildly imaginative results.

The theme of the song comes full circle in the chorus, which marries the question with the self-explaining answer through little more than a simplistic prose and a poetic disposition that makes the track so much more relatable than the plastically-stylized pop fodder of PEDRO’s contemporaries to the west of his home country. Lyrics are supposed to be the centerpiece of hip-hop, and PEDRO never tries to skew them with a lot of uselessly indulgent instrumentation here. He might not be the most famous rapper in the world, or even in Africa, but he’s got one thing that countless others who came before him never did – self-awareness. His music isn’t plagued with the same problems that we hear in mainstream rap, because both he and his aesthetic are lacking in egotism on (basically) every front.

“Call Me, I Miss Ya!” wraps up in a gentle thrust that leaves anyone with a taste for hard-hitting R&B and affectionate hip-hop ready to take on the night and whatever heartbreak it might have in store for us, and in terms of promoting its star composer and performer, it does more for Victor PEDRO’s moniker than any of his other work ever has. PEDRO has a very special talent that he’s putting to good use in this song, and if we’re lucky, it won’t be the last time that he puts all of himself into a wicked experimentation. I’ll be following his progress in either case, and I would tell anyone who loves real, urbane rap to do the same.

Joshua Beach