Published Sep 29, 2014Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad (GPGDS) has paired up with new label Easy Star Records for their fourth album, Steady. The band's divergent influences are on display for this 13-track offering that features classic reggae compositions infused with Appalachian and other experimental sounds and styles. The well-travelled quintet, despite a lineup change on the keys, remains tight and lively on every song, a consistency vitally important for an outfit that relies so heavily on organ and piano.
Beyond the traditional reggae sounds which GPGDS proficiently perform, there are interesting genre-mashing moments. In 2012, GPGDS released Country, an American roots album and a large departure from their normal repertoire. Appreciation for the Appalachian sound is present on songs like "Home" and ".45," with the former opening with a slick banjo melody and the latter introduced by a roaring harmonica. ".45," a crowd favourite at GPGDS live shows, is an odd juxtaposition to the preceding track "Solution" in sound and message. While the '70s Jamaica vibe of "Solution" preaches positivity, ".45" contrarily warns of the consequence of threatening the narrator, who will not hesitate to use his weapon if provoked. Furthermore, the unconventional beat of ".45" transforms the organ into a tool that is bluesier than reggae; the distorted guitar tone makes it more akin to Duane Allman than Earl Smith.
The departure into uncharted territory is not exclusive to roots influence; GPGDS also employs arrangements that have a poppier attraction. Such is the case with "Move," a song with sustained four-beat chords in the chorus and a lyrical hook built for radio. But, as expected, GPGDS excels at their Caribbean craft. The casually subversive "Mr. Cop," an ode to the herb, has a strolling-paced organ that directs the song, while a traditional dub beat keeps the time. The familiar subject matter, by no means revolutionary, innocently renounces the stringent marijuana laws of the United States. Theirs is a message of love and harmony, and they convey positivity effectively with lightness and energy. (Easy Star)