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Listening to: Bedouin Soundclash, Street Gospels

Bedouin Soundclash

Bedouin Soundclash, from Kingston, but maybe not the Kingston you think, as one reviewer points out, are a reggae/pop three-piece that channels the Specials, The Clash, a little Madness, The Police and Sublime. I can also hear some Dave Matthews Band and maybe some South African rock music from the 1980s and 90s (I’m thinking bands like Bright Blue or The Usual, bands most readers wouldn’t be familiar with, with an ‘ethnically’ influenced folk pop sound).

Their third album, Street Gospels, is a varied and interesting affair – definitely worth buying and listening to. I like it for its variety, scenic detours and also for its commitment to trying things other bands wouldn’t. For instance, Hush is an a cappella number that’s a nice mid-album break and a poignant piece of harmony singing (from a band whose vocals are perhaps best described as ‘adequate and enthusiastic’ rather than ‘great’).

What is interesting is that Bedouin Soundclash seem to have gotten the big attention they deserve mostly in Canada, at least to date, but are lacking recognition in both the US and UK. They won a Juno for Best New Group in 2006 (odd, since their first album, Root Fire, came out in 2001). Stylistically they sometimes strike me as more similar to the new crop of British bands than typical North American indie fare. Hard-Fi, Maximo Park, The Fratellis all come to mind as candidates for direct comparison, even equals: I think that what Bedouin Soundclash may need is the ‘breakthrough recognition’ some North American bands have found in the UK (I’m thinking White Stripes – but maybe that’s just a tad ambitious :).

There really aren’t very many truly good North American ‘retro’ pop bands. There are The Killers (who I run hot and cold with and should probably give another listen), LCD Soundsystem (who I haven’t warmed up to despite several valiant attempts and the fact that I keep buying every album they make) and, well… Bedouin Soundclash. They’re a band whose songcraft I’ll enjoy watching mature over the years, whose reggae skank certainly gets my toes tapping and whose sound has a rousing but rootsy punch that I imagine I’ll enjoy for a while.

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