PTI Music 2023

Hot N’ Fresh

Out of Sonoma, one funky bunch bust out a groove to bust the listener’s chops.

Despite its cover artwork suggesting a retro taste of an old-fashioned dish, the sophomore offering from this Californian ensemble has a different flavor, much spicier and smokier than anyone may look forward to. Of course, the muscular funk of opener “Opa!” should cause the listener to grin like a Cheshire cat which licked a greasy spoon, yet the main reason the foursome grab their followers by the lapels and don’t let go until the audience are well-fed and satisfied is the collective’s optimistic, existence-affirming outlook. There’s no guessing whether the future can be brighter than the present; there’s a toss between the sentimental, if flaming, finale “Life Is Fantastic” and the album’s soft, soulful centerpiece of “Rhythm Is Right” when the platter’s over and its defining cut can be chosen.

Neither will qualify, though. Once Robs Fordyce and Hooper get the infectious groove going by bouncing the former’s bass of the latter’s drums and let David Noble’s guitar licks to the surface that’s smoothed with Jamison Smeltz’s sax before arabesque-like vocalese weaves a mesmeric tune only to be resolved in “Opa!” and the Latino-scented heat briefly dissolves in serene floating of the sound, the group’s guests must feel they’re in for something special. Still, they hardly expect the sonic onslaught of “We Can Figure It Out” where the entire band deliver, quite assertively, the titular line and allow Noble’s sweet voice to take it for a cosmic swirl George Clinton would approve of, especially after the instrumentalists engage in an lysergic trip which is wrapped up with a bit of rapping. But if somebody has decided they grasped the quartet’s drift, the unhinged ska behind “Cindy Will Prevail” and aggressive riffage behind the occasionally barebone “Construction Man” disabuse the smartass from such a prejudice.

More so, the mellifluous, albeit punchy, “It’s Complicated” seems expansive and nuanced enough to embrace art-rock’s sophisticated elegance, while the elegiac, albeit anxious, “I Used To Drive” brings forth beautiful balladry and Robert Fripp-patented strum that’s difficult to imagine coming from the force of nature which shrouds the gentle skank of “Higher” in an organ-led jive. The “Hot N’ Fresh” label doesn’t really describe it: this album is genuinely delicious.


May 27, 2023

Category(s): Reviews
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