Rating: It might have been a slow train coming (it’s been over three years since last LP Never Get Out Of This Funk Alive!) but Texan funk crew T Bird & The Breaks‘ funk locomotive has finally pulled into party groove central with third LP Harmonizm and confirmation that it is time, more assuredly than ever before, to get your boogie on.
The LP itself is lean and mean at only two thirds the length of its immediate predecessor but it says something of a band that has already delivered two excellent long players that this one sounds like they’ve stepped up a gear again. The production seems – well – chunkier and all the elements that made them great before – the tunes, the songwriting and T Bird’s distinctive vocal rasp are all there, only more so. The title track is a bona fide, party starting groove and lyrical statement of intent powered by a classic fat Breaks’ – er – break and an organ/ piano groove combo. Will To Live nods to Ohio Players, Justine is a funked-up rock n roller and Space Dust is a dirty groove that marries New Orleans funk with T Bird doing a JB-ish almost-rap. As always though, our man’s at his lyrical best when telling a story as on bad blood ‘shoot my ‘ol lady down’ anthem Somebody’s Lovin’ My Baby which delivers choice vignettes from T Bird (“Her mother called me up, said my daughter wants you back, I said I know she’s shacking up, with Jimmy John Jack, She said just give her one more chance, she swears to be true, I said lady that girl’s crazy – and so are you”) in between an earworm hook from the Breaks backing singers.
While the band trade in retro-influenced funky soul, one of the things that makes them special is the way they haven’t bound themselves slavishly to achieving a sonic authenticity (that few outside of Daptone actually reach) whereby the listener feels they might be listening to a lost sixties or seventies recording. Instead they play up an attitude, approach and sound (obvious from press stills and release artwork not to mention frontman T Bird’s lyrics, antics and dress sense) that they themselves describe as ‘chunk’ which also has something in common with 90s underground hip-hop and also a little with the funkier/ bluesier side of alt-rock in the G Love/ Jon Spencer vein. Harmonizm is arguably their best example of this sound to date. Check it.
(Out now on digital and cd. Vinyl to follow!)