The Bamboos, Step It Up

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Step It Up

The Bamboos

Score one for porous musical borders — a funk band from Australia sounds about as promising as an improv group from Dusseldorf, but The Bamboos annihilate all preconceptions before they finish the first snare roll. Step It Up is lean, tight and tough, a thrilling collection of percolating funk that takes no time for breath-catching or slow-dancing. That it comes via San Francisco's Ubiquity label is no surprise — like Brooklyn's Daptone imprint, Ubiquity has been at the fore of the funk revival, issuing both compilations and original records that have mastered the rawness and raggedness of the regional soul labels of the 1960s.

All the elements are in place — the whip-crack drum breaks, the bobbing bass, and the movie house organ, and all of them are sewn together so tightly there's no way to spot the seam. The group keeps piling on layers — "Tobago Strut" stacks blaring brass atop clattering congos; "Another Day in the Life of Mr. Jones" pits horns against guitar, making a kind of frenetic call-and-response. And the songs featuring vocalist Alice Russell are show-stoppers, her fiery alto searing a white-hot path up the center of the group's dense instrumentation. Step It Up is no mere stylistic exercise — it's as legit as the music that inspired it.