Album: Bran van 3000

Discosis (Grand Royal)
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The Independent Culture

For his second Bran Van 3000 album, James Di Salvio has ditched most of the friends and acquaintances who helped out on 1998's Glee in favour of more famous collaborators such as Curtis Mayfield, Youssou N'Dour, Big Daddy Kane, Momus and Eek-A-Mouse, with the former Cars frontman Ric Ocasek drafted in as co-producer. The intention was probably to create a freewheeling, eclectic patchwork along the lines of the late, lamented Was (Not Was), but as the convoluted credits suggest, the result is more a lawyers' picnic than a feast of music. The opening song "Astounded", with its Curtis Mayfield a capella vocal laid over a sleek techno-soul backing track, is fine enough, but Di Salvio quickly loses focus thereafter, cramming in too many conflicting elements into a single track. "Montréal", for instance, starts as a laidback white rap over an acoustic guitar funk groove, slips into a Spanish scat refrain, and closes with Youssou N'Dour in his native tongue. "Discosis" likewise opens with Big Daddy Kane rapping about himself, then mutates into a bustling Latin-house groove before returning, via a snarl of heavy metal guitar, to Kane. But for all their industry, few of the tracks command a place in one's memory: the lingering impression is rather one of needless frantic activity, as if each piece were terrified of losing our attention ­ when frankly, a decent tune here and there would have done the job far better.

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