Michael Franti and Spearhead

Michael Franti and Spearhead

Everyone Deserves Music

Boo Boo Wax

Michael Franti has finally given up on remaking hip-hop in his own image (Beatnigs, Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, early Spearhead) and realized that he is who he is: the multiculti boho hippie/dread prince of good intentions. Gone are all pretensions at being musically edgy, all attempts to connect with the audiences who have by and large rejected him: he’s playing to the choir now, and he sounds comfortable as hell that way.

So what he does here is just do twelve songs that — as long as you don’t expect them to be hardcore or recognizable as rap — sound great and say all the right left-wing things. “What I Be” rides an ambient reggaefunk groove while Franti declares his love for trees and the rains and the sun and the earth and says that if he were sex he would make sure everyone had lots of it, and always had access to condoms. That’s just so… adorable!

It keeps on like that. “We Don’t Stop” is major-league radicalism in song form, which succeeds on some level despite extreme corniness. In fact, that’s the success of this record: Franti has decided that he doesn’t care if he’s thought corny or not. The title track is about as soft as it gets, both musically and sentimentally (dude even says that Iraqis deserve music! no wonder he was being investigated by Homeland Security earlier this year yes he was), but he means it so hard that it’s all good. “Love Why Did You Go Away?” is like Bread or Chicago after say 1980 or so or maybe even Air Supply…except that Franti’s big sincere baritone carries the day: “Love, why did you leave us here alone? / When we dropped bombs upon each other / Picked up guns and killed our brothers / When Dad got mad and yelled at Mother / Where were you?” And when the big funklite beat and the power chord guitars kick in after 1:14, it sounds like brilliant softcore genius of some kind.

There’s disco-rock stuff (“Yes I Will” borrowing from “Train in Vain”‘s guitar riff and you KNOW that was disco for realz) and reggae stuff (real live Sly and Robbie in electro mode on “Pray for Grace”) and funk stuff (you cannot NOT love the country funk on “Feelin’ Free”) and folk stuff (the unbearably affecting “Never Too Late”) and lots of stuff. And it’s all really well-played by Spearhead, who are an excellent band no matter how you slice it.

This would be a lot worse, I think, if I didn’t agree with 90% of Franti’s politics, but I do. And it would be a lot worse if I was an ironic sneering hipster who didn’t believe that good intentions were worth a lot. And it would be a big freakin’ lot worse if I didn’t like good music played well and a really well-meaning guy with one foot in rap and one in r&b and another in rock and another in reggae. (Okay, so he’s kind of a mutant.)

But it’s not likely to be everyone’s cup of herbal leaf infusion. So beware. If you’re a right-wing asshole who only likes tough manly lyrics and long wanky solos, then keep on walkin’. But the rest of us should like or love this a little or a lot.

I’m with the latter category.

Michael Franti + Spearhead: http://www.spearheadvibrations.com/

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Jacqueline Kerrod
    Jacqueline Kerrod

    17 Days in December (Orenda Records). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • Pokey Lafarge
    Pokey Lafarge

    In The Blossom Of Their Shade (New West Records). Review by Jeremy Glazier.

  • Best of Film 2021
    Best of Film 2021

    Lily and Generoso select and review their ten favorite features, seven supplemental films, and two prized repertory releases of 2021.

  • I Saw A Dozen Faces…
    I Saw A Dozen Faces…

    From The Windbreakers to Bark, Tim Lee is a trooper in the rock and roll trenches…and he’s lived to tell it all in his new memoir.

  • The Lyons
    The Lyons

    A man on his deathbed is surrounded by bickering family members, many of which you would strangle him given the chance. In other words: a brilliant comedy!

  • The Reading Room
    The Reading Room

    Today’s episode features author Anna-Marie O’Brien talking about her book Adventures of a Metalhead Librarian: A Rock N’ Roll Memoir with Ink 19’s Rose Petralia.

  • Bush Tetras
    Bush Tetras

    Rhythm and Paranoia (Wharf Cat). Review by Scott Adams.

  • Tom Tom Club
    Tom Tom Club

    The Good The Bad and the Funky (Nacional). Review by Julius C. Lacking.

  • Barnes & Barnes
    Barnes & Barnes

    Pancake Dream (Demented Punk Records). Review by Carl F. Gauze.

  • Jeremiah Lockwood
    Jeremiah Lockwood

    A Great Miracle: Jeremiah Lockwood’s Guitar Soli Chanukah Album (Reboot). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

From the Archives