Jimi Tenor / Tony Allen
Inspiration Information Vol. 4
Whatever happened to Jimi Tenor? Britpop’s peacock enigma, an outrageous cross between Bryan Ferry and Esquivel, Tenor combined the best parts of retro-tech-wonkery and outrageous showmanship along the lines of Ric Flair and Mr. Quintron on his Europa album. And just as quickly as he elbowed his way into the spotlight, he disappeared. Over ten years later he reappears, glittery jacket gone and looking like Michael Caine reincarnated as a chemistry professor, with afrobeat legend Tony fucking Allen in tow — drummer with Fela Kuti’s Africa 70 and Damon Albarn’s The Good, the Bad and the Queen, a more rocksteady beat you couldn’t imagine — and a head full of Africa 70, Caetano Veloso, and Yellowman sides.
As part of the Inspiration Information series, these two musicians came together for a breakneck recording session, burning through a wide swath of ideas, influences, and sounds. And it ain’t the odd couple that the cover suggests. Allen and Tenor fucking gel. Well, Allen’s the consummate ensemble player, playing with octopus-armed dancehall vigor belying his age, and Tenor is a musical omnivore and a chameleon, clearly champing at the bit to compose a madcap love letter to African pop music, especially the ice-cool oeuvre of Kuti. “Sinuhe” is a magnificent tribal rave-up, rife with spy-film horns. “Dark Side of Night” is a crazy, exotica-tinged, hard-bob vamp. “Mama England” pairs raunchy sex rhymes and toasting with some Tropicalia/tropical mantras, and “Three Continents” is an epic near fifteen-minute trancelike workout over a magnificent breakbeat, jazzy solos, jazz cool, and falsetto choruses. Bop jazz meets afropop meets hip hop meets Devo. And let’s be fair, some of the material on Inspiration Information sounds ridiculous, fucking funky ridiculous, but still ridiculous. I doubt it’s going to be anyone’s favorite album, but some art just needs to record a moment, instead of making a tortured statement. Some art just needs to dance. Inspiration Information is a compelling (and laugh-out-loud funny) document of a once-in-a-lifetime musical summit.