Phonosonics - Reggae Don't Pay The Rent
Jamaican-rooted music, probably more than another music, has a long history of straddling the line between lovers' music that makes you wanna pull a warm body close and fiery political anthems that make you want to punch an oppressor in the mouth. With their latest offering, Reggae Don't Pay The Rent, Victoria's rocksteady champions Phonosonics are paying proper tribute to the beautiful lyrical dichotomy of the musical culture they're helping keep alive and well. The production here is top-notch; all the tracks sound rich, full and warm. It's a clean sound, but it's not slick and shiny. It's an aesthetic that suits each of the five tracks incredibly well and fits the throwback feel of the band and its songs like a glove.
“If He Makes You Laugh” is undoubtedly lover's rock, as frontman Spencer Cleave's rich voice gets to stretch out between highs and lows as he mourns a love just out of reach, supported by a luscious organ line. The gently lilting rocksteady groove of “Feel The Same” is the perfect compliment to the lovey-dovey lyrics. Cleave, who also holds down the songwriting duties, turns his eye outside of his own heart on the title track, “Reggae Don't Pay The Rent” and the hard-hitting “Oil.” It's an interesting pair of political-leaned tracks as the former keeps it close to home, dealing with the struggles of the masses barely getting by, while “Oil,” unsurprisingly, takes on the damaging effects of a world driven by the endless quest for “black gold, Texas tea.” But, keeping in the spirit of the best reggae, the music makes you want to move, both tracks are genuinely fun and both are reminders that music with a message can still be hugely fun. The final track “No Sleep” is bouncy as hell and while Cleave sounds like he's having the best of times singing the song, he's singing about my own personal hell, staying awake to take in the never-ending party of life. Ah, hell yeah life is great but I'm tired. I'll see ya in the morning, I'm going to bed.
Legit though, it may seem odd that I'm writing so glowingly about rocksteady/reggae music coming from the Canadian west coast, but in the city that hosts North America's longest running reggae festival, it makes perfect sense that such glowing reggae music is emanating from the city. If you need those good riddims for these hot summer days – or even better, the slightly cooler but still warm summer evenings – Reggae Don't Pay The Rent has got what you need. Highly recommended listening. (Independent)