Balkan Beat Box welcomed a wide array of guests onto their first three records; the music played out as a globe-hopping smorgasbord of multiculturally influenced sounds and ideas, teeming with sexual charge and a political undercurrent. As subversive as it was, they jammed it into a package that was, fundamentally, something you could shake your ass to.
Their fourth record, Give, marks the first time the trio have entered the studio guest-free, and the results are much thinner and digital-sounding than their past work, heavier on the electronica facet of their sound. The political messages here are painted across the surface, relying on repetition rather than subtext. Urge to Be Violent escapes the repetition by virtue of excellent vocals and a solid horn hook, but the echoing screeds in songs such as Political Fuck and Money have as much appeal as a protest rally chant without a danceable groove. Tamir Muskat chronicles a personal story about getting detained by TSA as a possible terrorist on an Alaska Airlines flight in Enemy in Economy, but it’s undermined by a cheesy refrain that’s meant to sound like stewardesses welcoming travelers to the U.S.
As for that charged sexuality? Give offers the musical equivalent of late-night cable softcore with What a Night, which actually loops the lyrics get you wet over turntable scratches. If that’s hard to stomach, you’re not ready for the groan-inducing wordplay on come/cum in the song Porno Clown.
With Give, the band is able to put checkmarks in all the Balkan Beat Box boxes but fail to meet the standards they set previously in any of them. They’re better than thistheir back catalog proves thatso it’s all the more disappointing they’d put out such a paint-by-numbers effort.
Essential Tracks: Urge to Be Violent