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Can't Talk

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Album Review

Nostalgic for the sound of England circa 1994, when Massive Attack, the Brand New Heavies, Saint Etienne, Portishead, and seemingly dozens of other acts crossbreeding sample and turntable-based DJ collectives and soulful, jazzy pop bands were hailed as the future of music? London-based trio Road certainly are, from the sound of their debut album, Can't Talk. Fronted by a rotating cast of largely female singers and favoring a classy line in mellow downtempo grooves, Road would be easily dismissed as an unapologetic throwback, but for the fact that the group actually does something novel with the sound. Two-thirds of Road, drummer Paul Gunter and producer/keyboardist Mike Benn, formerly worked with 1970s folk-jazz singer Terry Callier, while the third member of Road, DJ Rob Gallagher, was the leader of the pioneering U.K. acid jazz crew Galliano. So the trio's credentials are solid, yet Can't Talk is no mere exercise in ecstasy-fueled club kid nostalgia. Instead, there's a maturity to these grooves, a sadder but wiser feel best exemplified by Callier's weathered, breathy vocal on the wistful "Walk Away." Similarly, Benn, Gunter, and Gallagher evince a sincere fascination for other musical cultures, which they incorporate into Can't Talk without resorting to the shallow "let's get a sample off an old Nonesuch Explorer album and put a 4/4 beat under it" that was the downfall of so many "world fusion" dance records back in the day. The highlife guitar figure that powers "We Are" is as integral to the song as Rosina Kazi's gospel-infused vocals, and the cover of Gilberto Gil's "Toda Menina Baihana," with its blend of bossa nova guitar and squiggly, high-register electronics, fits comfortably beside the original "Saudades do Brasil." Elsewhere, the quirky "The Ballad of Johnny One-Stop" sets Earl Zinger's surreal, Ivor Cutler-like monologues, delivered in the plummy but pedantic tone of a minor character in a P.G. Wodehouse novel, to a flamenco-style acoustic guitar and a clanging, hollow beat that recalls Gunter and Gallagher's work in an early incarnation of the dance troupe Stomp. It shouldn't work at all as well as it does, a fair description of the album as a whole.

Customer Reviews

Fantastic

The best thing I've heard this year. Come on Mercury prize.

Fresh

I agree with Mikey. A very different sounding album. Full of suprises, great grooves and strong songs. Honest guv!!

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