The Negro Problem

By - Jul 1st, 2003 02:52 pm
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By Jeremy Saperstein

Let’s start with the name: it’s meant as a knowing jibe — something to make politically-correctoids bristle. It oughta make you feel better that leader Stew is, indeed, black — and he’s making some of the finest literate and culturally-aware power-psychedelic-pop I’ve ever heard. The disc is like some sort of hideous hybrid of the every unique artist you care to name (to namecheck: I hear echoes of Charles Mingus, Sly Stone, Brian Wilson, Syd Barrett, Arthur Lee, Ennio Morricone, Roy Wood, John Fred and Burt Bacharach – and that’s just in the two songs that close the album! [“Bong Song” and “Bermuda Love Triangle”])

Despite the name, race is no issue within the grooves of the record, which features tongue-in-cheek references to records that have come before (“If London calls/just say I’ve stepped away” from “Watering Hole”), obscure pop-culture icons (“I’m Sebastian Cabot in your dreams/I’m Sebastian Cabot — what’s that mean?” from “I’m Sebastian Cabot”) and so much more — all in meticulously clever lyrics that continue to unfold through repeated listenings.

Smile Records

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