It’s a great sound that Antibalas pays tribute to, for they are, essentially, a Fela Kuti covers act. Oh, they write their own material, mostly. But it is a trace-around of the king of Afrobeat’s offerings, so much so that the band has been in the pit for the musical Fela!
This self-titled release, the band’s fifth album, returns them to a more focussed, harder, sharper sound. The giant jams have been whittled down to funk workouts, high energy and longer than your average song but not the 20 minute extrapolations the band had previously offered.
And this is, in the end, why Antibalas’ latest is a rather deeply unremarkable album. The better option remains purchasing almost anything by Fela Kuti – or one of the earlier Antibalas albums where they really stretched out. The playing on this album is often brilliant but it’s like watching Sharon Jones (another Daptone artist) and then comparing – actually/honestly – with Aretha Franklin. There is no comparison. And if you can still go to the source you should.
Antibalas deserves some praise for (unashamedly) pointing in the right direction. Musical flag-waving and all of that. So maybe a good introduction – but I still think so highly of their far more politically-charged and vibrant Who Is This America? (So I’m off to listen to that again…and if you haven’t heard it you should too).