John Brown’s Body Amps Up

28 10 2008

Amplify (Easy Star)

John Brown’s Body has been one of the hardest working (and touring) bands around since their inception in the 1990’s. Using reggae as their foundation, co-vocalists Eliot Martin and Kevin Kinsella added opposing dynamics—the former, with his hip, soulful lyrical chops that at times had the scatter and swagger of hip-hop; the latter, with his roots base and scratchy vocals. Things have changed since 2005’s Pressure Points however, most notably Kinsella’s departure (and bassist Scott Palmer’s unfortunate death). Martin has taken the helms with a reconfigured line-up that has stayed true to their jamband-oriented reggae, in which instrumental sections can flourish and reform numerous times in any given song. Gone is some of the diversity, which is sad, but Martin’s songwriting has always been strong enough to carry the weight. The band is most interesting when they stretch their roots, as on “The Gold,” which features Martin’s trademark stutter-steps. They slow—and dub—it down when Midnite’s Vaughn Benjamin steps to the microphone on “Speak of the Devil.” A fine return for a band that has long transformed turbulence into part of their musical experience. Derek Beres

(This review originally ran in Relix)