Samuel Claiborne has a new album out on the True Grooves label. It's called 'Love, Lust and Genocide,' and the album contains nine tracks remarkably devoid of any overt stylistic influences, which makes the album difficult to tag. On the one hand, it's almost experimental; on the other hand, it seems to be alternative rock of a sub-genre that defies classification.
Surprisingly, 'Love, Lust and Genocide' was recorded without synthesizers. Instead, an unusual assortment of instruments was employed to produce the imaginative sound effects: violas, a cello, whistles, and a violin, along with various bells, flutes and whistles. And thankfully, a real drummer was utilized, although the drum track was digitally manipulated.
Lyrically, the album is imbued with a dismal and dreary ambience, as if life is a bad dream, wherein those subjected to life's cruelties discover nothing but despondent unhappiness. The closest anyone can come to happiness is yearning for the unattainable. Assorted religious references inhabit the lyrics. In the end, the conclusion seems to be that if a deity does exist, he/she/it either doesn't care for humanity or prefers to remain remote and detached.
The first track on the album is 'Say Goodbye to America', which scrolls through a report of America's deficiencies. In short it's a statement song carried along by a repetitive beat and melody. 'Hungry for Strange' may hark back to Lou Reed, but lacks Reed's ostrich guitar tuning and pokerfaced vocals. Claiborne's voice is raw, almost bleeding, but the music, which is bright and sprightly in comparison, fails to bleed with him.
Religious philosophy takes over on 'Lion and the Lamb'. Claiborne's vocals are subdued, exuding the pain of theological disappointment, while the melody is repetitive. And the lyrics border on the juvenile, displaying philosophical impulsivity. 'Succulence (Blasphemy)' exhibits oriental strains as it attempts a mystical ambience that doesn't work. Any redemption for the tune is completely destroyed by the vocals, which are spoken poetry.
'Hurt' may well be the best song on the album. A slow, dark song about masochism, the melody builds to a heavily layered chorus that demonstrates a decisive and pleasing flair. '21st Century War' begins with a Vangelis-like intro, then segues into an electro-pop veneer with cartoon-like lyrics mixed with dialogue. For some reason, Claiborne finds it necessary to inject dialogue, which is capricious and melodically debilitating.
The last track on the album, 'The Heart Is a Bomb', starts off well with a reductive reggae beat. Unfortunately, the song implodes as Claiborne once again cannot deny the urge to speak rather than sing. In this case, the dialogue consists of protest poetry of the worst sort.
'Love, Lust and Genocide' is a torpid album, beset by numerous problems. Yet, despite all the problems, Claiborne has talent. As demonstrated on 'Hurt', he can sing, when he chooses to. Put bluntly, he needs to commit to a genre that will provide an outlet for his abilities.
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