The Poets of Rhythm
What Goes ‘Round
The Poets of Rhythm are seven guys who are able to grind out perfect 1970s-style funk pieces, except now. I first heard them backing up Lyrics Born on his great track “I Changed My Mind,” from the Quannum Spectrum album, and I bought their Discern/Define album the day it came out last summer. They are so tight and loose at the same time that you’d swear they grew up in the coolest ghetto jive joints in the world, instead of in Germany, where they’re from and where they live.
But I was kind of surprised to learn that they had a new album out called What Goes ‘Round — I hadn’t read anything about it on the Quannum Web site, and I’d think that any new stuff would definitely be hyped to the maximum there. Then I saw that this album was on Shadow Records and I thought, “Oh, I guess DJ Shadow’s got his own sub-imprint or something.”
Wrong. Shadow Records has nothing to do with DJ Shadow or his Quannum cohorts, and this isn’t a new album. You don’t learn that What Goes ‘Round is made up of tracks from two mid-’90s albums until you open up the CD booklet. Pretty sneaky, Shadow Records.
The actual music itself? Well, it’s a lot like Discern/Define: it’s modern-day old-school funk, with drums that snap like a comedian on BET and keyboard hooks you could catch fish with and saxophones that wail like a benighted banshee and chunky guitar shit that you want to eat with a fork but you have to use a spoon so you can get every drop. One cannot help but move one’s ass when one hears this album, from the James Brown necrophilia of “Funky Run Through Parts 1 & 2” all the way to the string-laden weepy closer “It Came Over Me.”
Unlike Discern/Define, however, most of these tracks carry vocals, which is kind of a shame, because they steer some of these songs into quasi-minstrel-show areas. If you’re a German funk band, you don’t get to sing about how you goin’ to “No’th Carolina,” nor do you want to do all that “Hey, man!” stuff that begins “More Mess on My Thing.” And what is “Strokin’ The Grits” all about, anyway? How does one stroke grits, exactly? And why? Have we learned nothing from the burning of Al Green?
Anyway, my little bitchy comments aside, this is a very funky album that just happens to be six and/or eight years old, depending on what track you have on. You will dance and have fun listening to this one, if you don’t mind very talented white Europeans trying a little too hard to sound like African Americans.