RYAN’S REVIEWS ‘One Armed Bandits’
ONE ARMED BANDITS is an odd album to review because it’s style is really hard to place. With most albums I review, I am able to give you some comparisons of what a band sounds like, but with OAB, I really can’t do that very easily at all. And finally, to add to the “odd” content, OAB includes cover songs originally by Snoop Dogg and Alan Jackson, which really: could you get much further apart in the musical spectrum than Alan Jackson and Snoop Dogg??? (Correction, it’s not the “Alan Jackson” it’s just some guy with the same name)
The Raindoggs have gone through some lineup changes through their existence, which explains why there are three different lead singers on OAB. As weird as it is to say though, all three sound very much alike; if the press kit didn’t tell me there were three different people singing on this album I might not never have known. Kassey Key, the newest lead singer, only appears on one track, but I guess is the new focal point of the band since they have changed their name from “The Raindoggs” to “Kassey Key & The Raindoggs.” So that explains the first question I had about OAB.
Raindogg wants you to hear what he has to say
Secondly, the style. Hmm. Well, they list themselves as Neo-Soul, and I guess that is as appropriate as any genre you could place on OAB. Some songs have horns and uplifting rhythms; others are more down and remind me of Massive Attack more than anything else (“Daddy May I”). There is a definite jazz influence that runs through all of the tracks, as well as a soul feel to the songs, and also a bit of 50’s/60’s dirty underbelly. The original release of the album that was sent to me – when they were still just called “The Raindoggs” – had tracks that made me think if burlesque dancers and pin-up models. As to exactly WHY those images came to mind, I don’t know, but that’s what the feel of OAB invoked for me. The newer version still has a little bit of that dirty-but-not-quite-filthy feel to it, but also feels a bit more rock and a bit more widely influenced. Musically, The Raindoggs are a talented bunch of people, from the vocals to the guitar and bass work, to the horns. The percussion is pretty much just there to keep the beat, there is nothing special on OAB as far as the drums go.
There are some songs I really like on OAB, and others I really just can’t get into. My personal standout is the aforementioned “Daddy May I,” which has a very downtempo, a very trip-hop groove to it, and feels a bit different than anything else on OAB. I also enjoyed the horn work in “Sleight of Hand,” which has an overall party feel and I’m sure would be a great live track. The instrumental tracks, “Black,” and “Boerum Hill” were both very enjoyable overall as well. There were some tracks that were ok (“Be My Man,” “What Have You Done”), and then some I just couldn’t get into, most especially “My Medicine.” I understand that “My Medicine” is a Snoop cover, and it’s got some automatic hipster cool by taking a hip-hop track and making it a soul/rock fusion track, but the way that Raindoggs plays it the song comes off sounding like an ode to heroin.
Kassey Key and Raindogg
Overall, I enjoyed OAB, but I just couldn’t figure out exactly what to think of most of it. It sounds like music that would be a great soundtrack to a movie about a 60’s spy in Middle America, or a flick about a burlesque dancer falling from grace to a drug addict. There is a definite “theatrical” feel to the music, as well as an impression that it would be fun to see the band live. I enjoyed OAB, but as a whole it really wasn’t my style of music. I think that there is a definite audience for OAB that would truly love this album above all others, it’s just not me; for me it was varying levels of good, not bad, and not great… there was nothing that I felt was horrible, but there just wasn’t anything that really grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. I am interested to see how they evolve now that they seem to have settled on one singer, and I think that they are certainly talented enough to make music that could be widely enjoyed by a lot of people. For me though, OAB just wasn’t quite it.
Overall 6.5 / 10