"THIS SOUNDS LIKE SUBLIME, please turn it off." This quote comes courtesy of my wife, whose vehement objection to Bedouin Soundclash's "Trinco Dog" forever annexed the band from our car's playlist. It's a shame too, since had my better half made it past the band's upstroked guitar notes and raspy vocals, she'd likely have been a convert to the Toronto band.
Frankly, Bedouin Soundclash don't sound a damn thing like Sublime, unless you count the fact that both acts take comfort in the same influences—ska and reggae, mostly. But that is where the comparison (thankfully) comes to an abrupt end. The trio of singer/guitarist Jay Malinowksi, bassist Eon Sinclair, and drummer Sekou Lumumba dabble in punk rock, ska, and reggae, but never linger too long in any genre in particular. Instead Bedouin Soundclash are a product of their upbringing, a mixed-race group of kids born in the '80s who travel the groundwork laid by the Clash, Trojan Records, and the Police. Handpicked by No Doubt to support the SoCal band on their recent reunion tour, Bedouin Soundclash followed that by recruiting King Britt—formerly known as Silkworm from Digable Planets—to produce their new Light the Horizon LP.
With the exception of the horrid "Elongo" (which shares far too many similarities with Toto's "Africa"), Light the Horizon finally finds Bedouin Soundclash at their best, firmly entrenched in a tranquil mix of loose groove reggae and masterfully structured rock and roll. Malinowksi says it best in album opener "Mountain Top," when he suggests "call it what you want, call it old punk rock." "Mountain Top" is followed by the slow waltz of the sincerely love-struck "Fools Tattoo" and the band's finest moment, "Brutal Hearts."
Buoyed by guest vocalist Beatrice Martin (of Cœur de pirate), "Brutal Hearts" is a haunting ballad that sheds the band's confident demeanor in exchange for a vulnerable back-and-forth between Martin's tender refrain (as she sings "I don't mind at all, I don't mind that you only call me when you want") and the sharp edges of Malinowksi's rasp (who admits "I don't like the man that I am, I just want this night with you"). Both on that song and throughout Light the Horizon, a careful balance is struck, as Bedouin Soundclash deliberately offer listeners a bit of everything, without revealing too much.
Now if only I can manage to convince my wife of this.