Rocket Juice and The Moon: Self-Titled
Rocket Juice and The Moon
Rocket Juice and the Moon is the type of group that by all rights probably shouldn't exist. It's true that Damon Albarn has been channeling David Byrne in his willingness to experiment with wildly different sounds, styles, and collaborators. Drummer Tony Allen has also made his way around the music scene to a fair degree, staying more generally within his own genre. And then there's Flea, who has always been a bit unpredictable, bouncing from Red Hot Chili Peppers to Thom Yorke (with occasional acting roles, perhaps most notably as a nihilist in The Big Lebowski) with little trouble. Had you told me a year ago that these three would come together to form an Afrobeat group, I probably would have laughed at you. Yet, taking a moment to consider it, perhaps Rocket Juice and the Moon is less a band that shouldn't exist, and more an outfit that was on some level inevitable.
Albarn and Allen previously worked together on the very good, and very different The Good, The Bad, and The Queen, though that fit more cleanly into Albarn's traditional wheelhouse. Rocket Juice and The Moon, on the other hand, feels more as if Albarn is along for the ride, with Allen taking control and Flea adding his own sound liberally throughout. This makes for a more aggressive sound, and a more complex one. Add in the variety of fairly stellar guest stars (including perhaps most prominently, Erykah Badu), and these three might just have something here. At 18 songs and an hour long, the album is a surprisingly consistent groover, making an argument for a genre that has never had much sonic pull over me personally.
The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble brings volumes to stand-out track "Lolo," which becomes a synthesis of standard Afrobeat and jazz undertones that is a super group's dream--a mixture of various sounds that comes across as something entirely new. "Poison" allows for both Albarn and Flea to strut their stuff a bit, as the former provides an excellent lead vocal performance and the latter gets to bring out his melodic side (as a reminder that the man is capable of far more than the short, quick riffs he is so often relegated to both here and in Chili Peppers). The album may be at its most pure, however, on "Night Watch," a brief, heavily rhythmic groover that seems to hit perfectly on the sound the group was trying to attain--heavily Afrobeat influenced, yet with a mixture of other influences bleeding in around the edges. If this is what Rocket Juice and The Moon has to offer, I for one hope this isn't their sole outing as a group. Any band that can pull off an album this consistently satisfying and occasionally transcendent shouldn't call it quits just because all of its members have day jobs.