The Black Seeds are not just a reggae band, though their work is clearly grounded in that genre. On their fifth release, Dust and Dirt, The Black Seeds roam a broader musical territory: funk, ska, dub, disco, blues, even rock. Does this kind of variety make the disc any good? Yes. And no.
About Dust and Dirt, the Seeds’ fifth, the band has discussed how this album marks the first project to come from their personal recording studio. This, one suspects, engendered a kind of relaxed, discursive approach to the whole project, and the result is an album that is uneven and unfocused at times. But the better songs outnumber the weaker ones, and that’s a good thing for The Black Seeds, who haven’t released any new music in over four years.
Earlier efforts, especially Into the Dojo, are more tightly put together than Dust and Dirt but lack the genial, laid-back rambling vibe on display here. Which is to say that Dust and Dirt, or about half of it, is worth hearing over and again; the rest is average or, in one or two instances, negligible.
Stand out tunes include the title track, “Loose Cartilage”, “Love Me Now” and “Rusted Story”. Then there’s the opener, “Out of Light”, which seems not to belong here, and “Wide Open”, which is exceedingly average to be over five minutes long.
Perhaps this is the kind of disc The Black Seeds needed to make now, in their new recording environment. If Dust and Dirt is a prelude to a tighter record in the future then it will perhaps warrant more attention as a transition recording; as it is, Dust and Dirt is above average, but not by much.