Whoever thought mixing acid house and country could even edge towards a good idea? Alabama 3, clearly, though to be fair they have edged a fair way from their original remit these days. Marking their eighth effort in 13 years, Revolver Soul sees the super-group (well, considering all those extra contributors) in dingy, irrepressibly funky form and wearing their James Brown-like sexuality on their collective, seductive sleeves. Revolver Soul probably dabbles in as many genres as your iPod on shuffle, fusing them all with the inimitably deep vocals of Larry Love and Dr. D. Wayne Love.
That Alabama 3 can even get away with such ridiculous pseudonyms at this stage in their careers says something about the Londoners, but – if anything – their sheer range is winning them still more respect than their popular -The Sopranos’ remix garnered. Tenor Fly’s appearance on -Bad Girl’ – which comes complete with faded whispers, thumping drums and a dance floor ready repetition of the word -deviant’ – forms the instantly accessible hook, drawing the listener into an album that’s a touch slow to get going, but bursts into life in the second half.
‘Vietnamistan’ is a clear highlight, one of those songs that gets better with every listen. Edging into a gentle hint at Yankee Doodle (the 18th century ditty is the story of a stupid American), it’s fiercely sarcastic political refrain that still stands up to musical scrutiny, despite the dark chorus line -ain’t no time to wonder why we’re all gonna die’ flitting among Morcheeba-like backing twiddles.
All too often, beat-driven artists can be accused of losing their meaning along the way. While there’s always a certain allure to purely atmospheric music, Alabama 3’s big draw is in their ability to push things that bit further without losing the heady vibe. In adding a mix of the poignant, witty and implicit sexual to their music, Alabama 3 succeed on both fronts, despite bracketing the album with -Oh Christ’ intro/outros so -Phantom Of The Opera’ meets -The Godfather’ you can almost see the script requests rolling in.
Make way for the eclectic: vocally bass-heavy and surprisingly danceable next to some of Alabama 3’s better known material, this is an album that benefits from its range. Tied together by the band’s permanent members, you could easily miss the fleeting presence of Shane McGowan and Johnny Borrell altogether. Each adds only the vaguest hint of their own style to A3’s assortment, and that’s the way it should be. Revolver Soul is bursting with all the irony and contagious beats fans have come to love, yet still remains fantastically fresh. So much so that we’ll even forgive them those moments of country along the way.