The Wicked is Music
Now I know that, even before The Beatles, Brits have had a peculiar obsession with American R&B. I can’t blame them. I do, too. However, that still does not seem to explain to me why that island has recently been coming out with some of the best R&B out there. While over here the music has become more and more digitized, hip-hop inflected, and peculiarly pop, the UK seems to have artists who remember that soul music must first have (like the Boorman 6 girl) soul (notable exceptions being, of course, that neo-soul brood surrounding The Roots). Crazy Penis hasn’t forgotten and puts the ah-sooky-sooky-now back into the music.
This five-piece live band, started by Nottingham duo Jim Baron and Chris Todd (a.k.a. Hot Toddy), spread captivatingly lush soundscapes across your ears to spread afros, disco balls, and bell bottoms and chill any gathering. “There’s a Better Place” is a deep house cut with voluptuous keys and a subtle disco feel. “You Started Something” is so disco I was half-expecting Luther to chime in with “All My Love” before Danielle Moore’s voice blessed the track. This woman has a unique voice that can be both sweet and seductive at the same time, as in “Give It Up,” where she’s tugging at your heartstrings and your libido simultaneously.
The band is a tight combo with a decidedly dazz (disco-jazz) feel that can bust out into some broken beat/nu-jazzy/house hybrid like “Bad Dismount” (Who is that? Teddy Pendergrass?) while laying down sweet-deep grooves like “Soulmutation.” Where they really shine, though, is in their soul. Like Zero 7, they have a very dreamy R&B sound that’s quite laid back, relaxed, and more dependent upon their own musicianship, songwriting, and vocalists than on the latest gadgets on their drum machines.
I don’t know if it’s the water, bad dentistry, or the lost empire, but, whatever the reason behind Britain’s fascination with R&B, if they keep coming up with Crazy Penises, I can only encourage the love affair.