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Get Loose 

Afro-beaten, Afro-burned

Wednesday, Nov 21 2001
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DOCTOR L, TONY ALLEN, JEAN PHI DARY Psyco on da Bus (Platform)

“Yeaaah,” groans Afro-beat legend Tony Allen, his bluesy Nigerian drawl responding to the tones of a jazzy keyboard as if a masseuse has just pounded the kinks out of his back. “We don’t want to fight no wars.” Those are the first words heard on Psyco on da Bus, which, despite the sentiment, was recorded before 9/11, most of it with producer Doctor L’s Mac G3 on Allen’s tour bus last spring. Doc finished the tracks in several studios at home in Paris, calling on musicians like saxophonist Eric “Ricco” Gaulthier, vox man Don Farkas and acoustics heavyweight Smadj to toss some love into the flow.

Afro-beatniks into downbeat, dub, funk and jazz: Time to get giddy. Featuring Allen’s Afrobeat 2000 trio (Cesar Anot, Jean Phi Dary and Jeff Kellner), Psyco is a tribute to jam-session self-indulgence as an art form. No need to shriek; there are plenty Rebirth of Cool moments throughout the disc to keep you on familiar ground. Opening with “Afropusherman,” which showcases a tight Fender Rhodes supported by Allen’s slick drumming and the coldest parlando since Soul II Soul’s “Jazzie’s Groove,” the album also superbly engages early funk rhetoric with “Never Satisfied.” Likewise, “Push Your Mind” craftily employs Allen’s previous pacifism amid stripped-down psychedelia. While “K.I.S. Compatible” kneels at the altar of Bitches Brew, “Pictures Talk” and “Hands Full of Sand” easily place you barefoot, bloated ’n’ sunburned, givin’ it up at an outdoor world-music fest.

Fact is, Psyco on da Bus is one of the sparkliest gems to be released this year. The set’s loose production delivers unshackled spirituality freed from the evil twins Pretension and Oppression, along with an old soul’s sage advice for these uncertain times. Just listen to Allen’s calming mantra on “K.I.S. Compatible,” and do what the man says: “Keep it simple.” Photo by Dennis Morris

BUSH Golden State (Atlantic)

If Bush’s commercial fortunes don’t turn around, front man Gavin Rossdale’s in danger of becoming better known as Mr. Gwen Stefani — and, hey, worse fates could befall a guy! But ol’ Gav’s not done with this rock-star thing, and he and his Brit buddies return with a new record deal and disc to make their case. Sadly, nothing about the unspectacular Golden State will save them from the Where Are They Now? file; far from circling the musical wagons, Bush’ll soon be circling the Musicians Wanted ads if they don’t pull their songs up.

It’s a mystery. Bush’s 1994 debut, Sixteen Stone, leapt off the blocks like a Red Bull junkie, their glossy take on grunge spawning no fewer than five radio hits and rightly landing the band almost instant arena status. But the tune font dried up, and two subsequent releases stagnated. The shockingly modest showing of ’99’s The Science of Things should have been enough to scare up the best in Bush, but not so; Golden State offers only more of the same. This is an album of faded photographs, its vision vague and distant; trademark tides of guitar, once cresting and crashing over rugged hooks, now just lap the ear like gentle reminders. Rossdale’s practiced last-breath pleading struggles to make the tepid material matter, overdressed against aimless dynamics.

Golden State is like running into the aging prom queen at your class reunion and wishing you’d never seen her that way. Spend your money instead on another copy of Sixteen Stone — you should’ve worn that sucker out by now. Oh, and Gav — be sure to have dinner on the table when Gwen gets in . . . (Paul Rogers)

Photo by Danny Clinch

OYSTERHEAD The Grand Pecking Order (Elektra)

Doobious brothers be Trey Anastasio and Les Claypool. Anastasio, guitarist with Phish (the hippie jam band that’s shepherded the Grateful Dead’s audience into relatively modern times), and Claypool, Primus’ bassist extraordinaire, are both cult figureheads and excellent musicians. That was all they had in common till they jammed together and decided to cut a record.

Anastasio’s nimble, seemingly improvisational guitar and Claypool’s smarmy funk meld into something far removed from either man’s regular gig. If defying expectations is the sign of the true artist, then these guys deserve certificates; it may take a few listens before fans of either Phish or Primus admit that Oysterhead hits the mark. Hitting the bong first probably wouldn’t hurt — and neither does the inclusion of legendary percussionist Stewart Copeland, who intuitively ties together Oysterhead minisagas like “Oz Is Ever Floating,” “Pseudo Suicide” and “Army’s on Ecstasy,” while Anastasio’s voice (earnest and sounding like it belongs to someone with manicured stubble and a Guatemalan pullover) creates some jarringly effective harmonies when paired with Claypool’s cartoony, nasal squawk. The pair’s lyrical collaborations are surprisingly seamless; they spin tales around a host of colorful characters, including a shell-shocked Vietnam vet, the recently expired Dr. John C. Lilly and a down-and-out fellow who used to be “Owner of the World.”

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