Do genre classifications really apply to 21st century music? After listening to the new album by Santa Barbara’s Rebelution, I am convinced the classic idea of genre is likely passé.
With the release of their new album the band have promoted their record in a very unique way. Peace of Mind comes packaged as a diverse, three-disc set. Included in the set: the original studio recordings of all the tracks, a stripped-down acoustic disc and a dub remix of the studio versions. Rebelution offered free downloads packs of all three versions of songs in advance of the release. They even gave away six of the twelve album tracks for free. The band really went the extra mile to appeal to the broadest audience possible with this technique.
Peace of Mind, their fourth record, finds itself classified (by iTunes) as a reggae record. This categorization seems far too narrow to describe the range of styles this record weaves through.
Rebelution definitely pay respect to their Jamaican influences by incorporating these sounds into their modern hybrid. They hit all the obvious reggae hallmark elements like the tight snare, off beat rhythms, horns, organs, big bass, positive lyrics, vocal echo and of course a song about being high --appropriately titled “So High.”
Any reggae fan will find something to draw them into this record. The producers (the band used five different producers on Peace of Mind) and the group went the extra mile to diversify the sound of this record to draw in fans of every genre.
The opening track, “Sky is the Limit,” is a straight-ahead reggae/rock track that opens strong with tight rhythm and great horns. The vocal delivery from Eric Rachmany (vocals, guitars) is powerful and effectively drives the track melodically and lyrically. His lyrics on this track are an exclamation of the band’s focus and determination; these words show the band’s intolerance for negativity. “Comfort Zone” features a great guitar solo from Rachmany and a rock solid bass line from Marley Williams, while continuing the reggae/rock feel. On the third track, “Good Vibes,” a song that deals with the goal of eliminating racism, Rebelution employ a more dub heavy sound for the darker subject matter.
After three obviously reggae influenced songs, the group slows down the sound and the mood with a very smooth R&B-style acoustic ballad. “Route Around” is a long-distance love letter from the road explaining that there is a way to make a relationship work. The song builds with energy and includes some excellent horn and string arrangements for the ending of the song.
Rebelution continue to diversify their sound on the track “Life on the Line.” They incorporate a very eastern influenced acoustic guitar intro and possibly some eastern instrumentation (I’m not sure, sadly, digital media and liner notes rarely come together). The darkness of the non-standard instrumentation lends itself nicely to this track about the realizing your thoughts were all a bad dream.
Next up is the second of three ballads on Peace of Mind, the song “Closer I Get.” This cut features a simple drumbeat with an old scratchy record effect laid over most of the track. A simple groove keeps this song moving until guest John Popper (Blues Traveler) shows up with his trademark harmonica after the bridge and solos until the song fades completely away.
The last five songs on the record all occupy their own unique space. “Lady in White” is a musically heavy song about drug addiction. Part of the weight of this track comes from its synthesizer and guitar prominence that is a nod to nu-metal, but still maintaining their own unique sound. Rebelution also include an obligatory stoner reggae anthem in the track “So High.”
“Day By Day” features a skanking verse and a heavy stop/start chorus to create a very driving song about the ups and downs of relationships. Also included is a very basic reggae song, “Calling Me Out,” about accepting how things are and moving on.
The group chose to end Peace of Mind with an acoustic ballad that seems to focus on the war in Iraq. “Honeypot” seems to take the soldier’s perspective of disbelief surrounding all things war related. This song seems poignant enough to get your attention, but not in a very heavy-handed manner. The vibe of this track is a perfect way to end the record.
Rebelution really brings a slick, pop angle to the reggae genre that their sound is based around. The record's very deliberate production allows them more freedom than I have ever heard on a single reggae record. They have crafted some pretty infectious radio-ready songs that should appeal to most rock or reggae fans.
While Peace of Mind doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it does prove that you can spin wheels of all sizes and shapes simultaneously.
Rebelution plays The Pageant, 6161 Delmar Blvd, St. Louis on March 23, 2012.