Hello, Boombazi

“Dear Momma, can you say, ‘Revolution’”
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  October 3, 2007
BIG BAND: Boombazi get the party going.

Boombazi | Released by Boombazi | performing with Radiation Year + Cambiata | at the Station, in Portland | October 6 | at the Big Easy, in Portland | October 18
Boombazi have performed one of the more difficult music magic tricks: they’ve managed to create a funk-heavy sound that isn’t at all dated and actually moves the genre forward. Perhaps it’s because they’re not afraid to get “freaky with myself to an old Ohio Players album cover,” as lead rapper Justin Hogan admits during a classic spoken-word segue between the first two tracks on the band’s new self-titled album, something that could have easily come off the Pulp Fiction soundtrack but is 100 percent original.

“The funk comes to those who refuse to wait,” we’re told, “who grab life by the nose hair and yank, and tug.” After more than half a decade of entertaining just about anybody’s who’s ever hit the Old Port and releasing tHe Uncertainty Principle in 2003, they have here released a statement that they’re the sort of band that goes around yanking and tugging (sorry, couldn’t resist). With a mix of upstroke-laden ska-rock, hip hop, metal, and, yes, funk, Boombazi have carved out an aggressive and sometimes dirty vibe that’s both infectious and inspiring. Oh, and have you seen the cover of the Ohio Players’ Honey? They clearly have good taste, too.

Theirs is a big band sound, equally full in the headphones and on stage. While guests here like Will Holland, DJ shAdezilla, and Ryan Zoidis are effectively employed, they are merely accents to an accomplished and tight group of musicians led by the rhythm section of drummer Benbazi, percussionist Greg Happe, and bassist Nick Leen. Boombazi have rhythm in spades, and it frees the soloists, notably single-named guitarist Luke and trumpeter Adam Trull, to experiment freely. The trumpet is everywhere here, but shines especially in “Na Say It,” a subdued and Sublime track that echoes the trumpet, lending a psychedelic feel through an all-instrumental tune you can really stop to savor. It occurs to me that someone should compile the best local instrumental tracks released by bands that aren’t normally all instrumental and you’d have yourself a phenomenal party disc.

Not that Boombazi need any help with the partying. There are no shortage of inventive ways to reference sex (“When it comes to sex/Trojan X when I undress”) and drugs (a falsetto response that runs, from what I can tell, “She’s only 16/She’s doing mescaline,” though I suppose that could be a salad reference), but it doesn’t come with mean-spiritedness of some commercial hip-hop. Let’s just say they’ve got open minds.

Because of the contrast between Hogan’s relatively tenor rap and the low sing-song of Luke’s vocals, you might be reminded of Jurassic 5 from time to time, and Boombazi do sometimes show the same flair for political writing the 5 highlighted in 2002’s Power in Numbers. While the revolution they speak of in the chorus of “37 Exeter” seems to mostly be a musical one, the following “TV Dinner” delivers a stinging indictment of our country’s reality-TV culture, possibly the most singularly vapid mainstream cultural movement in history, the place where art has gone to die. Chaotic and fast-moving to reference an attention-span that shrinks by the minute, Hogan chastens us — “Shame on all for callin’ this reality” — and then our leaders: “Forget about the war/Ignite the brain rot.” Listen here for the woodblocks that help the trumpet get all Latin.

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