February 25, 2004

Gainer "You Say That Like It's A Bad Thing"

Amazing. This album is simply amazing, and it's even more amazing to think that this pairing seems so illogical. Terry Hall--a pop man at heart--is best known as the frontman of the Specials, Fun Boy Three and Colourfield, and Mushtaq, formerly of Fun*da*mental, is a master hip-hop/world beat manipulator. Would you expect the two of them to get together and make a primo, club-ready ethno-pop record that's as intriguing as it is enjoyable? I know I didn't.

The fruits of their collaboration, The Hour of Two Lights, is an addictive--and unexpected--mixture of Western and Eastern sounds, and you really won't know what to expect next. From the pounding, erotic beat of "A Gathering Storm" to the poppy "Ten Eleven" (co-written by Damon Albarn) and the 'you are there in the streets of Morocco' feel of "This and That," this fusion of pop and traditional middle Eastern sounds never once sounds kitschy or novel. Even though they occasionally get political, such as on "Stand Together" and "Epilogue," it's never preachy, it's more of a 'we're all in this world together' type of message. Though a lot of the lyrics are in Arabic, (and no translations made, sadly), the words need no meaning; they transcend language and go straight to your soul.

It's good to see someone actually taking the time to travel to exotic lands and making an album with real musicians, as opposed to simply relying on 'modern technology' to accomplish the same thing. I mean, sure, some guy with ProTools and a few Mickey Hart records could create the same kind of record, but I'm of the opinion that the real deal still sounds a whole lot better. Besides, when's the last time that you've heard a Real Live Pop Crooner collaborating with a band that consists of centuries-old instruments as the oud, shehnai, dhol, ney or darabuka? Terry Hall's in excellent voice, too; his voice is strong, confident and it really sounds nice when accompanied by such a unique backing band.

The Hour of Two Light sounds like it was a lot of fun to make. Just look at the pictures of the musicians in the artwork: they're all smiling and happy. You will be, too, after giving this album a spin. As reverend as it is rude, and as righteous as it is erotic, The Hour of Two Lights is out of this world, something familiar yet alien. A sensual and aural pleasure, and one of the best records I've heard in ages. (It also makes road trips really nice, too.)

--Joseph Kyle

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