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Easy Star All-Stars – First Light

on June 01, 2011, 7:57am
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Who are Easy Star All-Stars? Really, by now we should know: Dub Side of the Moon, their acclaimed refashioning of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon is eight years old, plus Radiodread, a tribute to Radiohead’s Ok Computer, and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band-–no surprise who that’s a tribute to–aren’t much younger.

And yet it’s taken up until now (the online release of EP Until That Day aside) for listeners to get a stab at pinning down what exactly Easy Star All-Stars might sound like when they’re not rehashing Floyd, Radiohead, and The Beatles. First Light, a 14-track exercise in “Look-we’re-an-original-band-too!”, has been a long time coming.

First Light is not radically different from their other efforts–aside from the fact that the songs here aren’t recognizable songs. “Break of Dawn”, “Universal Law”, and “Unbelievable” are standout tracks; sticking to the reggae and dub sound that’s made Easy Star All-Stars famous, they play around more than other tracks, bouncing from beat to beat in a way that makes you want to jig, while also slipping in some almost doo-wop-ish vocals and playing a little bit with R&B. In fact, while it’d be easy to dismiss First Light as an album that simply took the style of those tribute albums and called it the band’s own, this record is a really strong example of why a band more famed for their ability to mold existing structures should walk into their own territory more often.

Sadly, though, a band that’s made a name for themselves by mimicking others is always going to be compared to those earlier efforts. In that respect, First Light doesn’t quite stand up: First, it’s too long, and secondly, Easy Star All-Stars don’t have the songwriting power of The Beatles, Radiohead, and Pink Floyd. (Who does?) Maybe the problem, then, is that following three excellent and considered parody-cum-tribute albums, the expectation surrounding 14 tracks of original material was always going to be too high–victims of their own credibility, perhaps.

Still, First Light succeeds in being solid and enjoyable, and it’s still worth finding out what Easy Star All-Stars sound like when they’re just being themselves.

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