Music Seen! - Just a Band "82" review
Coming just over a year after their groundbreaking debut album "Scratch to Reveal" Just A Band have returned with their highly anticipated sophomore album 82. By now it is quite obvious that Just A Band are one of the more exciting and innovative artists on the Kenyan urban music scene, they just have this undeniable "cool" factor that attracts the young hip crowd toward them. Such a loyal fan base have they gathered that even their album launch is the talk of streets.
So by now everyone is wondering just what they have in store for us with their latest release. What will they do this time, what will their new videos look like, what ground will they break in the Kenyan music scene? I must say I was one of those who was excited to hear their latest album, and so I picked up a copy at the pre-album release party. Immediately I got home I popped the CD it into my laptop and let it play, with one question in my mind; can the new album live up to expectations? And after more listens to the album over the proceeding weeks the answer was yes and no, but mostly no.
If you are expecting some groundbreaking and interesting material from their new album, you'll be largely disappointed. Although I'm not a big techno/electronic/house music listener nowadays, I definitely had my phase in the late 90s/early 00s with groups like Daft Punk, Basement Jaxx etc And that's the thing with 82, I feel like I've already heard this before, the album just hardly breaks any new ground with minimal innovation.
The album opens with a nice mellow track called "Save my Soul" which is one of the albums better tracks and works well as an intro. "Ha-He" is a cool party/club track which sees Just A Band using outside production (Musyoka) and fortunately his sound fits in with the Just A Band's and you can hardly tell it's a non-JAB track. A song with an obvious Daft Punk influence is "Extra" which although has a promising bouncy beat, falls short on the chorus..it just doesn't feel well thought out and executed, though the song does talk about issues young people all go through with their image. "Kaa Ridho" has one of the catchier choruses on 82 and is a song telling us not slack but get off our behinds and do/be something.It features rapper Juliani though he fails to take the song to that higher level, delivering an average rap verse.
On the song "Migingo Express" Just A Band incorporate a more traditional benga/dholuo style to their sound, but again unfortunately the song doesn't really work out that well. It is not a good thing when the title of your song sounds better than the song itself. What with the Migingo story being all over the news, I felt they could have done much more with this concept. "Usinibore" is the bands first single from the album, and is probably still my favourite song on the album which is let down by most of the rest of the album. The album attempts to go into a party mood on the song "Huff & Puff" but the track doesn't really move the body and ends up feeling like a forced attempt to lively up the album. Just A Band redeem the album albeit briefly on the song "Uko Mbele" which has a cool dance track, and on "Forever People" which I've found is nice song for working out and exercising (Stan Chart marathon hint,hint).
An interesting song on this disc is "Stay" which is sang by Wambua Mitaru. On this song I feel Just A Band were trying to do something different, and maybe break that new ground. Though one can appreciate them trying to do something left-field, there's just a slight hitch. I just don't think Wambua has a good voice, especially not for a song like this which needs a strong vocal. I feel it was a poor choice on Just A Band's part to use Wambua on this song. The last two songs follow most of the album and are just not memorable with "Boogiedeebweet" sounding like a not-very-good Timbaland track and on"Tingiza Kichwa" you wonder if the band threw in the track just to beat a deadline.
KC Blog rating: 3/5 stars
Just A Band's latest album falls short of the innovative bar set by their debut Scratch to Reveal, with weak songwriting and concepts. Just A Band may have fallen for the sophomore slump, lets hope this was just a bump along the journey of this promising band.