John Brown's Body

Easy Star Records, 2016

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


Since the mid '90s, John Brown's Body has remained busy with their fusion of reggae with dub, electronica, ska, hip-hop, and jam music. Though they've been through dozens of members and shifted from record label to record label, the band has consistently resided at the top of the reggae charts, and even famously covered a song by The Clash (“Bankrobber”).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Their 12th album Fireflies also shot straight to the top of the reggae charts – and for good reason. The original members Elliot Martin (vocals) and Tommy Benedetti (drums) are currently with an all-star cast behind the keys, guitars, and brass instruments, and that's evident from the opening track “Who Paid Them Off,” where layers of horns and melody erupt into an explosive first sip on the album.

“Hard Man,” featuring Karim Israel (Arise Roots) on vocal acrobatics, follows with sunny rhythms and plenty of catchy melody, before the ska and horn-friendly “High Grade” and soulfulness mixed with roots rock of “Badman.” The band shifts gears with “New Fashion,” a deeper cut, which moves with a danceable island groove that sounds reminiscent of 311 with a more authentic sound.

The second half of the album leads with the triumphant horns and raw singing of “Like A Queen,” the eclectic and stylish “Fireflies,” and the woozy and warbly “Mystery,” where background noises lend itself to a futuristic adventure. Near the end, “Pure Fire” isn't quite as incendiary as it seems, but it would be a great soundtrack to late night party on the beach; the disc closer “Mash Them Down” follows a similar path, with plenty of textured horns.

In their two decades, John Brown's Body has seen it all and persevered with creative integrity. The band has continued to refine their sound and experiment with modern ideas, and has consistently proven that they are only getting better with age.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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