Meanwhile…Back At The Lab Album Review
Released June 29, 2015
Genre: Reggae, Hip Hop, Reggae Fusion, Ska, Jazz Fusion
Some bands have a formula that is better left untouched; not because they continue to enthrall but because they consistently do their sound so well, that anything far from where it is either becomes “too weird” or not “slightly stoopid enough”. Slightly Stoopid’s latest effort, Meanwhile…Back At The Lab, isn’t so much a drastic shift but rather a seemingly consistent record that, oddly enough, shifts between reggae, blues, hip hop, and jazz producing that iconic “Sublime” sound that everyone has loved to an extent.
Originally signed to Bradley Nowell’s label Skunk Records, Slightly Stoopid have kept the California ska legacy alive by maintaining their love, and skill, for reggae, blues, punk, hip hop, and jazz. The album opener “Dabbington” starts the album off with some vibrant horns that get the party started. Accentuating the track are glossy yet robust synths that accompany the skittering bongos and looping drum beat. Although it is an instrumental, the track is a great lead to “This Version” which exhibits the bands strengths with ska numbers.
“The Prophet” is that classic Slightly Stoopid sound which has a catchy riff and Miles Doughty’s vocals still eerily resemble Nowell’s – an odd yet touching aspect to their music. A majority of these tracks lean towards reggae fusion such as the driving “Hold It Down” and the hazy “Call Me Crazy,” the latter clumsily adding in different instruments until it feels like the band has inhaled too much ganja. “Fades Away” has an interesting drum beat that is accentuated by the reverberated vocals and funky guitar filter; “Time Won’t Wait” starts off with a gritty yet funky bass groove reminiscent of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.”
The band’s ongoing infatuation with the “sacred herb” is present here as the band sings of its essence and their usage of it, praising the plant for its comfort and enlightenment from all things negative towards their lives. “Rolling Stone” is a typical cannabis homage while “Life Rolls On” is a sentimental metaphor that feels honest. While their lyrical topics don’t surprise me, they don’t insult or challenge me either. I’m left oddly neutral, as the band croons about rehashed topics that have made them necessary for lake parties and frat socials.
As usual, what you expect from a Slightly Stoopid album is what you get. The band have mastered their sound over and over again; while consistency is a major trait for a BIG fan of this band, I can’t help but feel a bit let down that Slightly Stoopid haven’t, not even slightly, pushed their sound into a new – and adventurous – direction. You can always depend on Slightly Stoopid to deliver a good time, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Aside from the blase moments, the album is oddly tame and calm, as if building up to something good. If the band’s cooking up something new, then please release it soon. I’m still enjoying this album, but only when I’m at the beach, or at a party, or when it’s background noise. The rest is a ninth revisit into a sound that can be eponymously described: slightly stoopid, yet slightly intoxicating.
FAV TRACKS: The Prophet, Hold It Down, Come Around, Life Rolls On
LEAST FAV TRACK: Call Me Crazy