Fat Freddy’s Drop Hypnotize at their Best
A few New Zealanders got together nearly 15 years ago and formed a jam band. Over the years, a few members came and went until there were eventually seven of them and they added reggae, funk, R&B and electronic music to their repertoire. At their core, they remain a jam band as their live performances (captured on two live albums) are their venue to work out their material until they’re ready for the studio. For their first studio album in four years, Fat Freddy’s Drop keeps the focus on their finely honed reggae sound, accented by the styles they’ve picked up over the years.
Blackbird is dominated by reggae. Gentle island rhythms rock most tracks lazily. As most songs are in the seven- to nine-minute category, the listener is eased into the calming, mostly repetitive and almost trance-inducing sound. Singer Dallas Tamaira, aka Joe Dukie, has a warm, sweet tone that glides over the top of songs and can belie the more harrowing nature of his lyrics. On the nine-and-a-half-minute title track, he sings about an intrusion and his resulting paranoia, yet the music and vocal conveys none of the fear in the lyrics.
Fat Freddy’s Drop are at their best on these kinds of tracks. The laid-back flow of “Bones” or the drum-thump funk of “Silver and Gold”– the stand-out of the album– engage and excite. They lose their way a bit when they allow their dabbling in synths and electronics to overshadow their strengths. On “Soldier” and even more so on “Never Moving,” the glitches and repetition become irritating and distracting. These back-to-back songs are a digression. The band eagerly returns to form on “Mother Mother” and closes with the instrumental “Bohannon,” repeating a vamp until their trance settles back in.