Some music is just made for summertime activities -- specifically‚ driving at the posted speed limit with the windows open/sunroof open/top down and the sound system cranked as loud as possible without distorting. Sunshine (or starlight)‚ movement‚ good friends and free time are key here‚ because as righteous as this music is‚ those other factors just make the whole thing better! Having set the scene‚ here's your soundtrack for what's left of the summer of 2012 -- Lettuce's latest disc Fly.
It's kind of amazing Lettuce came back together to record the follow-up to 2008's Rage: Members are literally all over the map‚ fomenting musical revolution with groups like Robert Randolph & the Family Band‚ Soulive‚ Rustic Overtones and the Dave Matthews Band. At the end of the day‚ though‚ good friends need to play good music together‚ too‚ and there's a "just-hangin'-out" factor that can clearly be heard in the funked-up grooves throughout Fly.
The title track bubbles and buzzes at you right from the jump‚ as the whole band wraps pulsing psychedelia around a single chord. Just as you come to understand that something wicked this way comes‚ drummer Adam Deitch kicks in the beat and Lettuce launches into one of the coolest grooves you'll ever cruise to. Eric Krasno's guitar hooks up with Neal Evans' keyboards to sing gilt-edged harmony on the melody while Lettuce's bodacious horn section (led by trumpeter Rashawn Ross and reedman Ryan Zoidis) keep things James Brown-funky. A blast of flute from Cochemea Gastelum adds a little bit of exotica that recalls LA's interracial R&B army War. And over all of it‚ the tape-loop psychedelia goes on and on and on and on…
While Fly has plenty of elements your average dubstep fan can latch onto‚ most of what you hear is as organic as farmstead tomatoes‚ and a hell of a lot tastier! When Erick Coomes drops the bass line on the hyper-speed "Lettsanity" or the extra-super-chunky "Play‚" you WILL dance -- there's no two ways about it -- but electronics have nothing to do with it. This is analog funk straight out of Parliament and their main muse‚ the late great James Brown‚ not to mention the brass-fed sounds of blaxploitation films that fuel heavy hitters like "Let it Gogo" and "Madison Square." Keyboardist/founding member Nigel Hall's vocals on "Do It Like You Do" owe plenty to Bootsy Collins‚ and Zoidis' alto solo throws more than a nod at the great Maceo Parker‚ who played for Brown and P-Funk mastermind George Clinton.
Unfortunately‚ giving big love to those Old School sounds isn't always enough‚ as is the case with Lettuce's cover of War's "Slippin' Into Darkness." The sound is huge‚ Krasno's solo is absolutely brutal‚ and the horn charts hit like a Louisville Slugger‚ so those without history will merely hear another dance tune. But their treatment completely glosses over the message in Howard Scott's lyrics‚ which was that the dark side of your nature can be your undoing. That message needs repeating in no uncertain terms‚ and merely playing the groove that inspired Bob Marley to write "Get Up‚ Stand Up" just doesn't cut it.
Even without that‚ though‚ Lettuce has learned enough from the Old School to know that really big fun needs more than a laptop and a badass light show. Actually‚ Fly shows all you need is a starry night‚ a few friends‚ and a convertible with really good speakers‚ so the people who watch you drive by can know without a shadow of a doubt that you are having a better time than they are.