[3 June 2008]
The opening, title track on Plantlife’s new album Time Traveller allows lead man, and apparently sole member, Jack Splash to address his myriad influences and apply a concept to the purpose of his music. The song consists of a series of “I was there” statements pertaining to various important moments in popular music, with claims ranging from, “I told John Lennon he should leave The Beatles” to, “I used to wear them big suits with Talking Heads”. Others accept responsibility for influencing acts from James Brown to AC/DC to Rakim to Clipse. Splash is obviously not speaking literally. He is suggesting that there is an omnipresent force behind all forms of great music and that he is an embodiment of that force. The range of production on Time Traveler is further evidence of all the different artists and genres that have influenced his art. The execution proves he is a talented producer who is capable of the ambitious task of incorporating all of these styles into a single piece of work. The only problem with the album is that, despite good backing tracks, Splash fails to develop an interesting identity as a vocal artist.
Splash sings throughout most of Time Traveler, with a few rapped verses here and there. His voice is like a cross between Prince, George Clinton and Love Below-era Andre 3000. He rarely changes his vocal tone throughout the album. His delivery generally remains in sort of a Prince-funk mode. This has the unfortunate effect of rendering this otherwise musically varied project with a slight bit of monotony. For a producer with enough skill to convincingly slip between all sorts of music, it comes as somewhat of a disappointment that his vocal styles aren’t able to catch up.
As an atmospheric, musical album, Time Traveler is fairly impressive. There are moments reminiscent of ‘70s soul (“Fool for U”), P-Funk(“Agirllikeudeservesamanwhotreatsuhowulike”), and dancehall (“Take it Off”), among other genres. Splash shows exceptional production talent in each variety of music he tries his hand at.
If there is a positive result of the consistent vocals on this album, it is that they serve as a constant amongst an ever-changing backdrop, providing cohesion to an album that might otherwise sound all over the place. Despite all of its sonic changes, Time Traveller is actually quite easy to listen to all the way through and generally has a pleasant sound. This acts as both a gift a curse. The album could serve as good background music, but the lack of personality in the singing makes for music that requires special attention to actually listen to the lyrics.
Splash may possess a certain power, as he suggests, which is necessary to create great music. But his singing lacks something important: soul. Great singers, good voice or not, have always had a certain magnetism that has demanded attention to whatever they were singing. This is a power that, at least as a vocalist, this guy has not quite figured out. Someone who has figured this out is Cee-Lo Green, with whom Jack is currently collaborating on a project titled Heart Attack. Time Traveller is an excellent exercise in skill that lacks a certain amount of soulfulness. The thought of combining the Plantlife sound with an artist as soulful as Cee-Lo leads to nothing but promise and, hopefully, great music.