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Joys and Concerns

The Negro Problem

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Album Review

Easily one of the finest power pop records of 1999, the sophomore album by the Negro Problem shows the group growing by leaps and bounds after their debut, Post Minstrel Syndrome . The Negro Problem is a Los Angeles group rooted in pop, but with an extremely strong degree of eclecticism. The songs, all written by lead singer Stew, are almost visionary folk songs that showcase his unique world view. The music, which can be described a modern-day folk-rock, has touches of pop and jazz, primarily due to the fine influence of the band's excellent drummer Charles Pagano. Heidi Rowald handles most of the bass chores, but she also doubles as a second guitarist behind Stew, and also plays keyboards. Probyn Gregory, a fixture on the LA scene and a member of such groups such as the Wondermints, is sort of an auxiliary member, and his work on horns gives this fine album dimension. The main difference between the sound of the group on this album compared to their debut is the effective vocal harmonies. Lisa Jenio, who has her own band in LA, Candypants, shines here as a guest vocalist, along with Rowald. Many of the songs are influenced by Jimmy Webb, giving the album an elegant, post-psychedelic L.A. feel that is infectious.

Biography

Formed: Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Invariably, first one must discuss the matter of the name. The name the Negro Problem is meant ironically, but it's in no way used for simple shock value. Indeed, the name illuminates the entire raison d'être of the band: although artists as disparate as Jimi Hendrix, Love, the Chambers Brothers, and the Fifth Dimension were making psychedelic rock music in the late '60s, a disturbing racial divide has reasserted itself since then. The concept of a supposed stylistic division into "white music" and...
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Joys and Concerns, The Negro Problem
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