Galactic: From the Corner to the Block

Hot New Orleans funk band backs a selection of rappers, with mixed results.


From the Corner to the Block

Label: Anti-
US Release Date: 2007-08-21
UK Release Date: 2007-08-20

The idea seems to be great: a five-piece New Orleans funk band breaks out with an album where they back a selection of rappers. Galactic has been rattling around for a while, but now would seem to be the moment -- they've been touring with all the Quannum crew, and they also recently backed Juvenile in a Jimmy Kimmel appearance. So why is this album so unsatisfying?

It's not because Galactic isn't a hot funk band, because they are. Start with Robert Mercurio's bass and Jeff Raines' guitar; dudes have been playing together for more than 15 years (they are apparently both originally D.C. punks), and their instruments twist and turn around each other with pointillist precision. Stanton Moore is a versatile drummer, as at home with psychedelic rock beats as with second-line swing. Ben Ellman's saxophone work is a bit more convincing than his harmonica, but he keeps it basic and tight. Round it off with crucial keyboardist Richard Vogel and you have one bad-ass band.

Some of the tracks here demonstrate this bad-assery in an almost off-handed way. "Hustle Up", featuring Boots Riley from the Coup, is a big fat slab of early Funkadelic, perfect for Riley's distinctive flow. The opening track, "I Got It (What You Need)", was made for Lyrics Born and his off-kilter stream-of-consciousness freestyle. And the title track, which adds the Soul Rebels Brass Band as well as Juvenile, brews up a whole fat slab of Crescent City for us. (Man, Juve sounds hot here. Maybe he should think about hooking up with Galactic on a more permanent basis.)

But the songs are only as good as Galactic's choice of collaborator. The tepid offering from "conscious" indie star Mr. Lif, "...And I'm Out", is all over the place but goes exactly nowhere, as do the tracks with Chali 2na and Ladybug Mecca. (Man, I used to love these people as rappers. Was I wrong, or have they both just fallen off the table like a drunk uncle?) Gift of Gab barely survives his track due to a great showoff section when most of the band falls out and he just goes against drums and guitar stabs. The jury is still out on the Lateef track, "No Way" -- it's great slow funk, but a three-minute song should not seem like it lasts for ten minutes.

Other tracks here indicate a possible future breakthrough for Galactic. "Tuff Love", a collaboration with someone named Trombone Shorty, is immensely digable because trombones are always awesome, and because the mid-song breakdown is just flat-out nasty. And when they pull in Big Chief Monk Boudreaux for "Second and Dryades", they work some kind of Meters/Neville Bros./Fats Domino NoLa voudou on the track.

Maybe Galactic is best as just an instrumental band, or maybe they need a new vocalist (the last one split a couple of years ago), or maybe they just need to pick more interesting hip-hop artists to work with. Any way you slice it, though, this album just isn't getting it done.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.