Dec 11, 2009
Mr. Something Something - Shine Your Face
On the new Mr. Something Something record the band members wanted to capture, as much as possible, the energy and the improvisations that characterize their live performances. As a result, they recorded majority of the tracks on Shine Your Face in one single day at Toronto's famous Metalworks studio where gold and platinum record awards for artists like David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen and Prince line the corridors.
Shine Your Face was produced by Mr. Something Something's own John MacLean and mixed by Scott Lake who has worked with Sam Roberts, Kathleen Edwards, The Stills and countless other great recording artists. The album features two Canadian trumpet icons who have worked with the "Somethings" in the past; Kevin Turcotte, a five-time Trumpeter of the Year at the Canadian National Jazz Awards and Brian O'Kane (Diana Krall, Aretha Franklin).
The mood on Shine Your Face is at times dark but always hopeful. The first line of album opener The Antidote sets the tone: "When the news is bad I need you to remind me that the urge to create beauty can't be contained", channeling the sentiments of a generation faced with the bill for their parents' excesses. Only The Maker is an attempt to come to terms with the cruel injustices of the world. Make Your Mind is a calm enumeration of horrors carried out in the name of God.
City of Sand is a feverish vision of societal breakdown. Why Why Why explores the physical and emotional landscape of suburbia, from above and within, whereas What Are You Waiting For poses a question that elicits responses tinged with guilt or longing. Many of the songs describe spaces where humanity seems to be absent, be it in a war-torn country or in the soulless, manufactured landscapes of box store desolation. Ultimately, Shine Your Face is a plea to fill these vacant spaces with love and compassion, with joy and creativity, with wisdom and meaningful work.
The main problem with most Afrobeat revivalist bands is that they’re trying too hard to be something they’re not.
It’s hard not to question the artistic honesty of musicians earnestly trying to imitate a genre from another era and culture, no matter how well they might succeed at simulating it.
This is exactly where Toronto’s Mr. Something Something come in. Sure, they’ve got that basic Fela Kuti groove down, but instead of being led by some white dude doing a Nigerian accent, they’ve got a proudly Swedish frontman whose smooth soul-pop crooning adds an entirely different flavour to the mix and a band as much influenced by American jazz as African funk.
The earnest hippy politics in the lyrics might go over the line in places, but you have to expect a bit of that from a band who’ve built a bicycle-powered sound system (which even cynics have to admit is kind of neat).
‘Shine Your Face” is an artful blend of something serious with something lively. Just what you’d expect from Mr. Something Something, a Toronto band that has been pairing dance beats with social causes and eco-activism since 2003.
The group will be kicking up dust onstage at CSPS in Cedar Rapids at 8 p.m. Saturday. That’s a good thing. A very good thing. So put on your dancing shoes and go. I guarantee you won’t be sitting in your seat very long.
All eight songs on the new CD grab you from their opening Afrobeat pulses and reel you in with crisp, blistering horns and lyrics that tug at your sense of wanting to right so many wrongs.
“The Antidote” sets the tone, with infectious, bright rhythms. You know immediately you’ve come across something special. The first words from lead vocalist Johan Hultqvist sum up the spirit of the project:
“When the news is bad I need you to remind me that the urge to create beauty can’t be contained.”
Even with lyrics that mirror the horrors of war, the ache in an old man’s heart and the need to affect change, the music is jubilant and celebratory.
Each track builds
on the fusion of Afrobeat and jazz, with just a hint of pop and layers of complicated syncopated rhythms. Sometimes other voices join Hultqvist with harmony, but often they just echo the melody in an almost haunting way.
The razor-sharp precision of the staccato horn line in “Why, Why, Why” demonstrates how extraordinarily gifted these musicians are.
This is a band to follow.
* Best track: “Through the Dirt.” This mostly instrumental track begins with a raw, primal percussion, then adds fluegelhorn, tenor and baritone saxophones, trumpet and vocalizations, all the while maintaining an improvised feel until it flows seamlessly into the urban call to action of “What Are You Waiting For?” Good question.
– DIANA NOLLEN, THE GAZETTE
Praise for Shine Your Face (2009)
“A thinking person’s party band, the five Toronto players make rhythmically sophisticated and socially conscious music, heavily influenced by the hybrid Nigerian/American Afrobeat styles of the late Fela Kuti. “When the news is bad I need you to remind me that the urge to create beauty can’t be contained,” front man Johan Hultqvist sings in the opening track, “The Antidote,” signalling an informed, optimistic, world view. The band’s second album The Edge drew a Juno nomination, but Shine Your Face marks the group’s most accomplished work yet.”
- John Goddard, The Toronto Star
“…superb release…. this infectious five-piece band grafts each sensational track together with smart pop hooks held in place by a gifted and extraordinary singer in Johan Hultqvist—adding accessibility to what is otherwise a high-torque melding of funk, jazz and Afrobeat (each of which is far too limiting in defining this crackerjack band).”
- Eric Thom, Penguin Eggs (Canada)
“Shine Your Face pares down the frantic locomotion of Afrobeat to stretch out the band’s jazz chops. And drummer Larry Graves swings like hell.”
- David Dacks, EYE WEEKLY, Toronto
“All eight songs on the new CD grab you from their opening Afrobeat pulses and reel you in with crisp, blistering horns and lyrics that tug at your sense of wanting to right so many wrongs. Even with lyrics that mirror the horrors of war, the ache in an old man’s heart and the need to affect change, the music is jubilant and celebratory.”
- Diana Nollen, The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, IA
“Innovative and rhythmically sophisticated.”
- WRUV-FM, Burlington, VT
# The Antidote
# Only The Maker
# Make Your Mind
# Why Why Why
# City of Sand
# What Are You Waiting For?
# Make Your Mind Part II
Labels: Mr. Something Something