Mr. Something Something Mr. Something Something

Afrobeat fans, it's all here: punchy horn riffs, jazzy drums, percolating guitars and percussion galore. Mr. Something Something even take on some of the 6/8 elements of Yoruban grooves that are frequently lost in the revivals. But there's one issue: the vocals. Since Afrobeat’s identity is so bound up in Fela’s method, everyone else's efforts are measured against his template of pidgin English, pointed politics and massive call and response statements. A good deal of modern Afrobeat fails because the front-person isn't charismatic enough to carry it off. In this case, the vocals completely depart from Fela-isms. The vocalist and dense lyrics might just as easily be found in a folk rock band. Should Mr. Something Something be criticised for not achieving Afrobeat perfection à la Fela, or should they be praised for rejecting the path of slavish imitation? Is this akin to the many white (or Japanese etc.) reggae bands whose vocalists don’t sound Jamaican but whose members know the music backwards and forwards? Would this disc have been more instantly credible if it had been an instrumental project? I must admit my favourite track is the one instrumental cut "the Contender,” which provokes the above questions. I want to see this band live because if they can kick it on stage, they’ll go a long way to convincing me that all the elements can come together — because, musically, these guys rank with any Afrobeat in the world today. (World)