Review of Born With Stripes Album by The Donkeys

The Donkey's; where to begin? Self deprecation is a strange quality, if you can call it a quality. Using humour to deflect or dissipate possible tension, mockery or confrontation could be seen as a noble act of unselfish behaviour. It can also be seen as a ploy to counteract possible criticism by being the first to mention any likely area that may give rise to pointed comedy. By immediately exposing a presupposed impression any antagonistic, hurtful or misconceived considerations from third parties cease to have resonance or effect. So whilst you may have got some mileage out of Michael Jackson calling his album 'Bad' (Were you a 'Mail' journalist with no conception of what was "happnin' in the hood" or what was "down with the kids") if you had neither heard it or understood it, you cannot really start on The Donkey's unless you want to horse around and make an ass of yourself. (Or is the more likely scenario here that they are a bunch of chilled out stoners from Cali who have never come across such terms as 'you bunch of donkeys'?) Either way it makes no odds as The Donkeys make some great music that requires no witty quips but is still full of its own blend of charming humour.

The Donkeys Born With Stripes Album

If in these times of austerity and penny pinching you could do with a little help to get you to your imagined nirvana of sunshine and surf where you called everyone 'man' or dude', where free love and free dope were not just flights of fancy and where life was a simpler less chaotic place, then this could be the best £10 extravagance you have this year. It may not change your life but it will certainly help enhance and relax it. Grow your afro, embrace your facial hair (Just the boys for this one) get your chopper out and live the hazy dream.

The first single from The Donkey's third album drifts in with a laid back mellow rythmn that permeates the whole album. 'Don't Know Who We Are' captures the essence of the tripped out twelve track set with its shuffling snares and looping guitar riffs. 'I Like The Way You Walk' may sing of Coup De Ville's and driving 'Shifters' but isn't interested or inclined to change the pace. You get a great sense of tongue planted firmly in cheek on the Lynch like 'Twin Peak' mystery and intrigue of 'Bloodhound' before the gloriously joyful title track 'Born With Stripes' introduces some 60's organ notes to help the riotously infectious, all too brief, breezy pop tune sing out in some style.

Ambient seemingly made for slackers with a love of all things vaguely psychedelic leaves us in no doubt that 'Jupiter's on the right' with the hypnotic 'Kaleidoscope'. The sitar gets not one but two chances to shine firstly on the more obvious 'West Coast Raga', with its Ray Manzerak like keyboard movements, and then latterly on the slightly more sophisticated, understated and subtler album closer 'East Coast Raga'. Carnival time for The Donkey's arrives virtue of 'Oxblood' as calypso and merengue meld and the scent of Tijuana calls.

Born With Stripes final flourishes are well worth the wait. The two tracks that make up the penultimate offerings are easily among the best on the album. With a vocal that recalls the beauty of Bolan, sitting majestically above a stirring love lorn backing track, 'Bullfrog Blues' aches with pensive anticipation. Then the extended highlights of the White Stripes infused 'Valerie' gradually build with controlled percussive restraint and an ever emotive narrative before a well deserved and effective indulgence briefly breaks down the growing impetus that carries the track to its conclusion.

San Diego's Sun drenched summers fill this album and embed in it a feeling of optimism and day dreamy 'couldn't care less' or 'not a care in the world' sensibility that eschews the time in which it was created. The Donkey's 'Born With Stripes', may be the sound of someone else's summer, but there's no harm in taking a sneaky peak.

Andrew Lockwood.

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