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THE UTOPIANS: Look Around You

Stuck for something to fill your listening time with until the next Mango Wood record comes out or, what seems less likely, another Aggrolites album? Then you could do a lot worse than check out Look Around You by The Utopians whose line-up includes one Nico Leonard. Not Nico Leonard of Moon Invaders, The Caroloregians and Reggae Workers Of The World? Yup – the very same. The five piece hail from Belgium and their debut ten-track LP not only features Leonard on drums but was also recorded and produced by him at his Badasonic Studios. And like the aforementioned Leonard-associated bands (not to mention Mango Wood and The Aggrolites themselves), this project’s sound is informed by reggae’s earliest incarnation. That’ll be the upbeat melodies and organ-led grooves of what is typically referred to as ‘early’ or ‘boss’ reggae then, full of the post-rocksteady spirit of ’69, informed by a healthy dollop of soul and some funky styling.

The album’s first cut is named after the band and kicks off with that familiar ’69-style organ swirl which frequently characterises the funkier end of reggae. Perfect Kind also leads with an organ swirl but provides a more upbeat groove that will certainly chime with Aggrolites afficionados though the vocals of Nicolas Nsakala are smoother than the Jesse Wagner growl. The third track is former 45 single How The World Turns and later on you’ll also find one of the two other cuts that appeared on the B-side in the shape of On The Road. Unlike the rest of the album, Leaving Africa stylistically draws from reggae’s mid-70s roots period and strikes a melancholy note to go with the Nsakala’s apparently autobiographical lyrics. The album’s centrepiece meanwhile, Funky Monkey, is its funkiest number (as the title suggests) though the triteness of that rhyme in the hook also makes it the LP’s only weak point. The rest of the material on here is far too good to be bothered by that however – in particular a quartet consisting of the wistful Homeless, the album’s only ska track (Lightning Love) and, even better than these, two organ-led numbers with superlative melodies – I Was Wrong (basically an apology to a loved one) and Don’t Work which champions dropping out of that shitty old consumerist rat race. All things considered, a confident debut from the Belgian early reggae massive – though you’d expect nothing less from an outfit with this lot’s pedigree.
(Out 5 April on Badasonic Records)

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