Bad Rabbits - American Love

Posted May 17, 2013

If you asked a handful of random, yet educated music lovers how they'd personally categorize the music of Boston band Bad Rabbits, they'd inevitably come up with a variety of answers. A funky mix of pop, rock, soul and blues, the Fredua Boakye-fronted five-piece ensemble has released their first full-length album, American Love.

The independently-released set includes previously-featured single selections "We Can Roll," "Doin' It" and "Can't Fool Me." While there are no guest features on the 10-track LP, outside producer B. Lewis joins drummer Sheel Davé, guitarists Salim Akram and Santiago Araujo and bass guitarist Graham Masser as the architect behind the quartet's retro, whimsical sound.

American Love Album Review

Regardless of where they might actually land on a mythical list of the greatest albums ever, we all have a favorite album that, for one reason or another, will stick with us and never get old. I have a few of these, and ranking them would be near impossible, right near the top is the Stick Up Kids EP from Bad Rabbits. Though I have had it for more than three years, it still remains on heavy rotation. The band's eclectic, ebullient style won me over and ever since then I've been blasting cuts like Stick Up Kids or Can’t Back Down on repeat, excited to see what was next for the Beantown quartet. In comes American Love. From the first minute of the LP's first track, We Can Roll, featuring a crashing drum intro from Sheel Davé, whose frenzied, lively drumming is often the engine of their most powerful cuts, it was clear the group hasn't lost the magical energy and wide-ranging style that first captured me.

Being that American Love is only their second studio album, BR’s popularity has come from their reputation for putting on a killer live show. After seeing Bad Rabbits live twice, once in a hotel lobby and once in an actual music venue, I am confident in writing that they are one of the best live bands around. Their vigor is unreal and intoxicating; you will find a varied audience ranging from metal heads to hip-hop gurus all dancing along to the energetic and party-oriented vibe of a BR show. While translating a live sound to a studio album is no easy task, Bad Rabbits have caught lightning in a bottle, replicating the energy and fun loving style of their live shows on American Love.

When I was little, I used to assume that bands would record their music while playing live in the studio. Of course as I grew older I learned that each part is recorded separately, but I couldn't help but feel that kind of live vibe on American Love. The album reads like one of their live shows; it is a non-stop, fast paced project full of powerful, genre-bending instrumentals and emphatic vocals from charismatic lead singer, Fredua "Dua" Boakye. When the group hits their stride and really gets going, it transports your ear and your mind into the thick of a show crowd. For evidence of this, press play on Take It Off, one of the albums more funky cuts. After a relatively fluid, laid-back performance, they pick it up in the last minute; supported by some wailing synth’s and anthemic background vocals, Dua wails Take It Off with his impassioned, goosebump-inducing vocals combined with a frenzied yet synchronized style of a true performance. The following cut captures Bad Rabbits’ technique of weaving classics like Bell Biv Devoe’s Poison or any number of Michael Jackson songs into their own stuff. Fans of Funkadelic will dig Dirty, as, in addition to the lewd, quirky, and humorous content, Bad Rabbits give their ode to the funk legends, with a “aww” outro reminiscent to Funkadelic’s (Not Just) Knee Deep.

Although self-described as a fusion of “futuristic R&B and post-rock,” trying to categorize this band is almost impossible. Dua’s dynamic vocals and lyrics combined with bassist Graham Masser slick baselines give off an R&B/funk feel (so too does the heavy synth usage), but the cascading drumming of the aforementioned Davé and the guitar work of Salim Akram and Santi Araujo also give BR a sound ranging from feel-good pop, to a heavier, frantic rock sound. Their ability to master and fuse a plethora of styles is one of their greatest strength, but it also becomes one of their bigger weaknesses of American Love. Each song feels like a hybrid of a great many sounds, which is quite impressive, but also makes the album feel heavy as a whole. Most of the 10 tracks on the set are fairly similar and as a result they often run together and occasionally, the non-stop go go action can be too much. American Love, it seems, could have benefited from better pacing, by having select tracks more heavily rooted in each of their lanes as opposed to cramming all the styles in on each record. In perspective, though, if fusing too many styles is the project's biggest weakness, then there is plenty to be proud about.

Overall, while not perfect, American Love is one of the more enjoyable albums thus far of 2013. You will be hard pressed to stay seated while listening. Heck, I am about the farthest thing from a dancer, but I couldn't help but move around to each and every song. In fact, as I sit hear typing, I am moving my feet, bobbing my head and rocking along; the feel good vibe is intoxicating and refreshing. American Love just might prove to be one of the summer’s best. The hypnotizing, bright aura is perfect for blaring with the windows down. Who knows, it might just end up on your all-time favorite list too.

DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins

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Posted May 17, 2013
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