Rafter cordially invites you to a super-keen, neat-o party. David Byrne is there. Thomas Dolby too. And isn't that Jamiroquai in the corner? The new Rafter record, Animal Feelings,
contains all the white boy funk you can shake a stick at, kicking off with the vocoder drenched "No Fucking Around." This song sets a pattern that Rafter will follow through most of the ten songs on the album. There's a tom-tom heavy beat, some clanking percussion and a couple of instrumental elements, like the Wally Badarou influenced, percolating synths in "Feels Good" or the Soweto-style electric guitar in "Timeless Form, Formless Time." But there's one thing missing from the equation: Bass. Try to imagine P-Funk without Bootsy, Motown without Jamerson, James Brown without Fred Thomas and you'll get a sense of how much you won't want to dance to Animal Feelings.
Nevertheless, Rafter Roberts, the man behind the band, is hard to dislike. He extols the virtues of monogamy and yelps, cajoles and makes like Mr. Lover Lover. In the super-catchy "Fruit," he boasts "I know that you'd love me/If you would share your fruit with me girl." In the impossible to resist "Paper" he asks "You motherfuckers/Where did you go?/I need some paper." He's got a scruffy, college boy charm that almost makes up for some of his glaring musical omissions. In "Never Gonna Die" he sounds like Lindsay Buckingham over a loping, modified disco beat, with hand-claps, cowbell and power chords. Roberts geeky generosity of spirit can be hard to dismiss, even when he blurts out banal lines like "Love makes you happy when it's not making you sad." With titles like "Beauty Beauty," "Feels Good," and "Love Makes You Happy," it's clear Roberts won't be satisfied until everyone's joined the Conga line.
But the lack of bottom becomes boring, leaving clattering bells and cymbals and not very well played drums. Even a cursory listen through Roberts extensive catalog shows his turn towards dance music only really began with 2008's EP, Sweaty Magic
. Though there are many charms on Animal Feelings
, it just feels light. Rafter is an easy target. But if you're going to promote this kind of promise ring funk, you'd better be able to rock a party. -dan siegler
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MP3: "A Frame" (Animal Feelings)
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