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Internationally acclaimed artists Thievery Corporation release their 5th studio album entitled Radio Retaliation on ESL Music. With Radio Retaliation Thievery Corporation raise the bar with a new cast of musical collaborators including; Nigeria's afro-beat heir Femi Kuti, Brazilian star vocalist and guitarist Seu Jorge, Indian sitar virtuoso Anushka Shankar, Slovakian chanteuse and violinist Jana Andevska, and Washington DC's own go-go originator Chuck Brown. Also returning are long time co-conspirators Sleepy Wonder, LouLou, Notch, Zee, and Verny Varela.
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There is something about listening to T.C. once again since their release of Versions that, in a strange way, elevates their music and makes it sound that much richer.
Without giving away too much information, I'll write my own comments on each of the tracks. I am a big audiophile and a musicphile, so your own experience may differ, however.
Firstly, this music is pretty psychadelic and contains lots of rich beats through the use of bass and percussion instruments, so it's my recommendation that you listen to this album -- as well as any other T.C. album -- on a quality sound system! Now then...
Sound the Alarm - This track starts off the album in a classic TC way, a multitude of Euro and African genres come into play to a nice, bass-rich beat. Definetely a great intro track.
Mandala - At first, this sounds like "yet another TC track", but you're in for a big surprise half-way through which I won't spoil. Let's just say that it sounds amazing. The entire track has a very nostalgic feeling to it, and is primarily an Eastern/Indian track, but a very powerful one at that. Once again, nice high-tempo bass is playing throughout.
Radio Retaliation - Very Reggae influenced track, following in the footsteps of "The Richest Man in Babylon" track a previous TC album. Nevertheless, a very laid back track that is just so damn catchy. Nice Jamaican-styled singing.
Vampires - Vampires seems to be inspired by David Byrne's collaboration with TC, as it appears to borrow quite a few beats and voice patterns from it. Nevertheless, this is a relaxing, classic track. For the best experience, I'd play it during night time :), as it contains relaxing jazzy elements throughout. You will not be dissapointed! On top of all this, it circles back to Mandala in a nice way :).
Hare Krisna - Nice, upbeat track. The lyrics are foreign so I can't comment too much on those, however it sounds beautiful, romantic almost. Basically, this is a typical TC track because it borrows quite nicely from a few genres. 70s rock, jazz, mambo, lounge, just to name a few, and plenty of bass line to top it off.
El Pueblo Unido - Another dancy track, but relaxing at the same time. The vocals are similar to one of TC's previous tracks, Exilio, but alas I can't understand Cuban! Not much to be said other than it's a very upbeat track and very cheery. You won't be dissapointed with this one. One of the things I admire is the way that the chorus builds up over time each time it's sang, a definite bonus in making the track sound more powerful each passing moment.
(The Forgotten People) - Very heavy Persian beats. I love it to be honest, because it sounds really psychadelic with a tiny bit of electronica thrown in to make it interesting. An instant classic, it sounds very atmospheric at parts and borrows styles from many different cultures, but primarily from the East.
33 Degree - This is a downtempo track, and it sounds pleasant. It's a standard TC track in that it's lyrics are primarily political, dealing with America and democracy. It's a lot like Amerimacka, one of TC's older, politically influenced tracks, but the lyrics sound more powerful in what they speak. Worth listening to if you want something relaxing to play in the background, because the vocals blend nicely into the music. Once again, I think it's best listened to during night time in a quiet area :).
Beautiful Drug - Finally! A romantic song. It is very slow and very soft, the vocals remind me of "Le Monde", a previous TC track, however this time around the lyrics are in English, and they are beautifully composed. It's an interesting composition because it has English singing and European inspired instruments, which makes it sound nostalgic in a way (if you're European anyway ;)). Worth every penny.
La Femme Parallel - Beautiful French track. It has no past equivalent, so it should be a "fresh" track to TC fans. It's very down tempo, although it's heavy on the bass, you won't be dissapointed. I can't understand French so I don't know what the song is about, but it sort of fits into a moody, mysterious setting. I picture a sad, rainy day to be honest. Again, a tiny bit of electronica is provided to make things interesting and remind you that you're listening to TC and not Gotan Project :).
Retaliation Suite - Reminds me of "International Flight" for some reason, a track on one of TC's mixes albums. But it's a very nice, jazzy track. Bass isn't as loud in this track as it is in some of the others, because the track mainly relies on regular and congo drums -- and of course, lots of saxophone! A TC classic by any other name, it's definetely pleasant hearing it, and to be honest it puts me to sleep :).
The Numbers Game - Back to some 80s, it's a very groovy track. It's got so many different styles in it, its hard to describe it, but it's got a bit of funk to it, some congo drums, a bit of jazz, and plenty of psychadelia. Uses the bass line appropriately. It's a keeper.
The Shining Path - A very psychadelic track, The Shining Path has a militaristic beat to it, while remaining on the border between lounge and triphop. Once again it has a nice funky guitar, with atmospheric piano being played in the background. Another night-time track in my opinion. Composed beautifully.
Blasting Through the City - Back to some reggae, this track is interestingly similar to Amerimacka, very downtempo and just a very "TC" track -- if that's even an expression :). Heavy on the political lyrics, it's just a nice background track, so if you own a store or similar and you want some music for your customers, this track should be part of your mix!
Sweet Tides - A beautiful, romantic ending. Sweet Tides is a very quiet track, and you shouldn't expect a TC album to end any other way. This is another track that sounds very nostalgic, and makes the album worth every penny (even though it's inexpensive enough as it is!). And although it's a very simple track, I have no complaints. It's got a nice beat, nice bassy guitar and good drumming. Accompied by romantic lyrics, you need nothing else to end another great TC album.
So, the bottom line. To buy or not to buy?
Well, if this isn't the first time you've heard Thievery Corporation, you will not be dissapointed by this album. And for crying out loud it's only $13($17 CDN)! So go get it and enjoy every moment of it.
If someone recommended TC to you for the first time, my honest advice as a big fan is to start from the beginning, with their first album, Sounds from The Thievery Hi-Fi and go on from there, because you'll get to experience how Hilton and Garza, the artists behind Thievery Corporation, progressed their style over time.
All in all, a great album and worth every. single. penny.
This album displays a huge lack of effort from a group who has previously frontiered their genre. After giving it a listen, I found that many, if not all, of the songs had samples recycled from previous albums. In some cases, they were not even recycled, they were just used again, in the exact same form! As far as the vocals go, there was little to no prduction on them post recording, which is a strange thing for T.C. The release of The Cosmic Game was a nice movement from their records before that in a new, more rock oriented direction, with a flourish of full production work, all new material and work that seemed to be really toiled over. This release just kind of shuffles it's feet in the way that the remix albums usually do. It's almost as if they fell backward, into the trends from around the Versions/Abductions days. I hate to write a bad review for a band I've loved for so long, but there's nothing new here. For newfound fans of the group, you could own this album and love it, but if you eventually purchase Mirror Conspiracy, Richest Man in Babylon, and Cosmic Game, you'll find that this album was a wash. For old time fans of Thievery, it's definately amiss, don't bother. It seriously feels like it was completed in a week.
As for the political aspects of their music, there is good reason for artists to be vocal about their views. This theme is recurring in a lot of music today as anti-establishment sentiment is growing; it should be no surprise that artists from oppressed cultures like those in the Middle East, Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America are leading the charge. Art imitates life.. and true to the title of the album, this is their retaliation. Well done!
Thievery Corporation and Fugazi are two of the best bands to ever exist the you've never heard of, and I don't think it's a coincidence that they are both from Washington, DC