Monday, August 17, 2020

Fantastic Negrito - Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?

Well, he’s back, and looking as out-of-the-box as ever.  Yes, it’s Fantastic Negrito, with his new album Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?  And on the cover he's wearing a fur-collared jacket that would suit Rasputin going for tea at the Winter Palace.
The Negrito formula remains much the same as on previous outings such as Please Don’t Be Dead – which is to say, he rejigs elements of black music genres like he’s fiddling compulsively with a Rubik cube.  “All kinds of things can happen in the world”, he sings repeatedly on the 55 second, syncopated-handclapping vignette ‘Shigamabu Blues’, and across the 11 tracks here goes about proving the truth of that statement.
Fantastic Negrito - zig-zagging his way through black music
Opening track ‘Chocolate Samurai’ is about as straight up as it gets, if that’s a valid description for what sounds like James Brown grabbing the core of Stevie Wonder’s groove on ‘Higher Ground’, shaking it upside down, and chucking in curve balls like a descending trill reminiscent of ‘Sir Duke’, a wonky guitar solo, a fabulously daft turnaround, and some jazzy piano.
  And while the lyrics include the album title, you may well recall more readily his admonition to “Eat less sugar, have more sex.”  Which sounds like a pretty good prescription to me.
Or there’s ‘Searching For Captain Save A Hoe’ – he does good titles, does Negrito – which is a staccato narrative delivered with punch à la Macy Gray.  Except the recipe also includes a doomy riff that now and then squelches and honks its way in from the margins, plus some sweet harmonies, a flurry of controlled rapping, and some groovy lead guitar.  And out of all that I come away with the thought that Negrito may well have spent as much time listening to Frank Zappa as the more obvious pathfinder Prince.
He can keep things relatively simple too, mind you.  Over the years his go-to schtick has often been a Moby-like transfiguration of a work song vibe, and you get that here with ‘I’m So Happy I Cry’, albeit with the core elements colliding with slithering organ and some wacky rapping from guest Tarriona "Tank" Ball, of Tank and the Bangas (nope, me neither).  And ‘How Long’ allies a dreamily vocalised verse to a chorus featuring a thudding ‘Mistreated’-style riff reinforced by clipped blasts of organ, to which yer man then adds a fluid, pinging guitar solo for further embellishment.
‘Your Sex Is Overrated’ is founded on vocals that are equal parts Sixties soul rasp and Prince-like head voice, over restrained, spacy backing that rouses itself as Negrito reaches a blissed-out peak.  And the guitar solo is mellow too, over perfectly melded bass, drums and keys, before it takes off to herald the conclusion.
A couple of tracks cut less mustard.  ‘These Are My Friends’ may have a punchy and snarling verse, and a swelling chorus that winks at the Fab Four, but it lacks any kind of killer twist, while the slower rumination of ‘All Up In My Space’, with its mantra-like chorus, is simply overlong, despite being enlivened by a funky, soulful organ break.
Speaking of funk though, the album closes with two corking examples.  First there’s ‘King Frustration’, which emerges from a mellow organ intro into a twitching, jerking funk groove like a puppet on a string, and throws in a trippy, hurdy gurdy bridge ahead of a squealing guitar solo and a suitably warped-classical slice of organ.  Then for afters there’s the throbbing, thrusting, grinding groove of ‘Platypus Dipster’, its brief guitar break sounding like it’s being squeezed out of a toothpaste tube.
Have You Lost Your Mind Yet? confirms that Fantastic Negrito is a non-conformist stirrer of rock/funk/soul and whatever else may be a distantly bleeping, clanking, rapping descendant of the blues – an evangelist for the musical misfits.  Dig it, people!

Have You Lost Your Mind Yet? was released on Cooking Vinyl/Blackball Universe on 14 August.

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