At the risk of repeating comments made elsewhere about Melbourne’s Deep Street Soul, I’ll mention again that this LP is dirtier than a night with your favourite porn star. This is just as well, for while the deep funk scene is one that seems particularly crammed with technically gifted musicians they are not always as inspired as you might hope. In other words it’s also a scene weighed down by pastiche where the Meters cast a particularly long shadow and if this LP is one where yet again the influence of New Orleans’ favourite funky sons is very much in evidence, it’s testament to Deep Street Soul’s approach that their debut stands out among the crowd.
Where Deep Street demonstrate a bit of an edge over their competition on this is in the fact that they have a real edge – a rocky one even – especially in their guitar sound and also the heavy, filthy production. First off the starting blocks is Crate Diggin which embodies this edge and recalls Live Funk Jam by that other great funky jam band – The Propositions. Album highlight Kick Out The Jams follows and anyone who says this isn’t the best new funk track all year wants workin’ on. It could all have gone terribly wrong in less capable hands but there’s no pussying around here whatsoever. Between them the band and guest vocalist, New York soul sister Tia Hunter, completely own the MC5’s proto-punk anthem and morph it into something that’s probably about as heavy as funky soul can get without actually being garage rock. The other vocal cut is Greenbacks which features London’s Shirley Davis who is every bit the equal of Hunter on an excellent band-penned track. Such is the presence of these two vocal tracks that you wish that there were a whole lot more whereas the remaining nine are all instrumentals and, while excellent, if there’s one thing Deep Street Soul might want to put on their Crimbo list it’s to get a vocalist or at least drop a few more vocal cuts next time around.
As mentioned, by far the larger part of Deep Street Soul is deep funk instrumentals but compare it to something produced at the zenith of the late sixties/ early seventies scene and you’ll realise that Deep Street Soul are subtly heavier. MC5 covers aside, try taking the monstrous riff that forms the basis of Red Raw if you want further proof. You’ll also realise that Monique Boggia plays a mean set of keys whether it be in the form Hammond chops or, in the case of the intro to Now Dig This, nasty clavinet riffs, that Matt Green sure plays a mean guitar and that it’s all rhythm in PJ and Sol Loco’s section. Thus if by the time they get to final cut Straighten Out and it has more than a few shades of the Meters’ version of Simple Song and the Meters own Yeah, You’re Right, they’ve kind of paid in full for the right to indulge in a little bit of pastiche. Not the only good deep funk LP of the year by a long way but easily one of the best.
(Out now on Freestyle)