Review – Danny Rebel and the KGB

Album: Lovehaus     
Release Date: June 16, 2017
Genre: Music for all the Reggae Loving People!

One Line Review:  With their newest release Lovehaus the self-proclaimed “Bastard Sons of Reggae,” Montreal-based Danny Rebel and the KGB, easily fill-in the reggae / ska / rocksteady void left by Sublime and King Apparatus, and Phil Collins when he was vocally cool.

Full Review:

When listening to any genre specific band, it can be difficult for groups to differentiate themselves from the status quo, to find that nuance that makes their version of “blank” different than another band’s version of “blank” without alienating the roots and forbearers of that specific genre.

Casual music listeners can be heard saying “[Insert specific genre of music here] sounds alike.  It all sounds the same.”

True, sound sameness can happen when bands, in any genre, try to fit entirely into one prescribed tonal aesthetic without adding any of their own personality or spirit into their work.  It can be asserted, with general accuracy, the most successful groups within a genre begin as the outliers, the performers who add their personality and style setting themselves apart from the other outdoor stage festival opening bands.

And here, within the context of a long introduction and musicology discussion, is where Danny Rebel and the KGB’s new album LoveHaus lives, a wonderful multi-genre album grounded in roots, reggae, ska, rocksteady, and dub, with a unique style and meaningful personality, a band who sets themselves apart with their precise musicianship, artful arranging, and tasteful interpretation that melds reggae with dub, rocksteady with ska, unrelenting joy with bitter heartbreak, and tunes to start dance parties and tunes to start gang fights.

The album opens with “I Got a Feeling” a big bass lined mid-tempo jam with a catchy groove and charm to spare.  Production is clear and open with every part expertly placed.  The lead vocals are a great mix of reggae rooted melody with dub and catchy delivery.  Musically, “I Got A Feeling” seamlessly transitions from section to section with alternating rhythms, varying styles, layering parts while retaining the all-around aesthetic and vibe of the tune.  A big, smile generating opening track to establish the album’s theme.

“200 Proof” is soul-laden with a rock feel, driving beats countering long melodies, with fills, riffs, and improved sections to spare.   Never cluttering or overplayed, DRKGB (as their friends call them) know how to share the sound, to fill spaces and move around each other musically to let everyone have their respective say.

“I Apolgize” grooves with lush bass, crisp snare, rhythmic guitar, ambient fills, and enough vibe for any summer drive while “Take Me Away” is an openly arranged jam fest with instrument drop outs dub style, soul inspired / old school reggae background vocals and jamming, rocksteady feel.

“Steady Hands” pushes right from the top, taking a more rock sense approach.  Lead vocals changes timbre sounding like, and I mean this in the best way possible, Phil Colins if he sang with a tough, streetwise reggae / funk / ska band.  Seriously.

If the delivery of the line “It hangs above my head” does not sound like it could have been delivered on Genesis’ album “Invisible Touch”, I would say you are wrong.  Flat out.  No arguments.  And the chorus “I got a steady hand,” is creating Phil Coliness (now a word) goosebumps.  Again, in the best way possible.

With each track being between three to four minutes, except for the closer “1601” at 4:21, the album paces well, each track established, complete and developed with precise clarity and tasteful arrangements.

“Pirates” is a big, bold, push of a song, with an edge just under its skin, a song to start threats and backward glances on hot, street summer days in slow driving neighbourhoods.  Delivery is tough yet catchy, a track Sublime would cover if they could ever do an original lineup reunion tour.  Imagine “Pawn Shop” if it was written to start a gang war.

“Ain’t No Fool” is the song No Doubt kept trying to write but couldn’t quite get.  Soulful and groovy, with a reggae / funk feel, “Ain’t No Feel” delivers a straight, emotional tune expertly played with well-placed stops and synchronized, behind the beat shots.  DRKGB knows when to push and pull, to set up a great transition then go back to the original beat.

“Copper Mountian” is the King Apparatus moment on the album.  Dr. KGB vs. King Apparatus sounds like the greatest espionage radio play ever.  Ok, I’ll write it.  No worries.

Truly, if you haven’t listened to King Apparatus, listen to this track, then imagine an entire album of its style.  If it’s for you, pick up King Apparatus’ self-titled album.  You’re welcome.  Great straight ahead rock push to the close the tune.

“Wellington Street” is lyrically poignant and breezily groovy proving one can write meaningful, touching tunes while retaining a head-bobbing, smoking in a parked car at night looking at the city lights aesthetic.

“When the Lights Go Out” kicks off with huge drum intro into a Special creepy, espionage-esque vibe and a keyboard sound right of 2tone ska.  A touch of King Apparatus and the Specials, Dr. KGB (as they will be referred to until I stop) takes the past-masters and mixes them into their own massive musical monster to release onto the unsuspecting masses.  (I wish I would have thought of the radio play idea sooner and wrote the entire review as a radio play.  Next time, Dr. KGB, so release a new album soon for me to review.)

“1601” closes the album with a solid Odds, with Warren Zevon on organ, writing a bonus track for Bed Bugs in a back alley studio while the sun throws twilight on the downtown outline.  Groovy, rocky, and smiley, “1601” is a great closer for a strong, multi-influenced, expertly played album.

Danny Rebel and the KGB’s Lovehaus is everything reggae loving, steady grooving, dancehall shaking people enjoy.  So spread the love and enjoy!

Danny Rebel and the KGB’s newest album Lovehaus is can be found at Bandcamp, Spotify, AllMusic, Apple Music, and playing on my laptop right now.  Go get it and share the love!

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The Riz is a prolific multi-genre songwriter, lyricist, writer and bassist for “Demolition Rock” sensation Ultimate Power Duo. A staple of the Saskatoon music scene, he has toured extensively across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. The Riz is also the composer and saxophone player for R. Muttering, an avant-garde soundscape improvisational electro-acoustic performance art and recording group. Besides his Bachelor of Music in Music Education (B. Mus. (Mus. Ed.) / B. Ed. (Mus.)) from the University of Saskatchewan, he has amazing comic and vinyl collections.

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