Music

Lettuce: Rage!

Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Thank God for small miracles and the holy number 7! With Rage! the seven artists in Lettuce raise the dead and uplift the living.


Lettuce

Rage!

Label: Velour
US Release Date: 2008-04-22
UK Release Date: 2008-04-22
Amazon
iTunes

It's the pleasant surprises that wake us up some days. When I put Lettuce's Rage! into my CD player, I braced myself and walked towards my kitchen expecting to hear some sort of angry vegan tirade. Thank God for small miracles and the holy number 7! With Rage! the seven artists in Lettuce raise the dead and uplift the living. This funk jazz collective dedicates its work to the memories of James Brown and James Yancey (J Dilla) who both died in 2006.

Lettuce, who got its name not from the most boring part of salad but from the persistant request to just let us play at underground jazz clubs all over Boston, is a movement with a history. The members met at a summer camp for music geeks, and found each other again in college at the Berklee School of Music. The faith that this crew has in their purpose, and in each other, comes through even in the recorded format. This effort of loving is what they call "our way of life."

The bandmates are live, even when they are not, which is the perfect answer to the death they rage against in this project. Lettuce's rendition of Curtis Mayfield's "Move on Up" leads with an exuberant drumbeat that invokes all of the collective energy it takes to call an oppressed group of people to "move on up to a greater day with just a little faith." The harmonizing on the track and the strings in the background make it sound like the effort is pleasantly haunted by kindred spirits who agree that the energy of decades past is necessary in the present pursuit of unlikely joy.

The most experimental track on the album is "Dizzer", acting as a resurrecting counterpart to the "The Last Suppit" which it follows, "Dizzer" allows the keyboard to invent new sounds while working over the voices of alien, or ghostly participants. So when they follow "Dizzer" with "Makin' My Way Back Home", the horns sound like they are breaking the doors to heaven open and inviting everyone out to dance. The "Chocolate City" they refer to is more cosmic and fantastic than the nation's capital has every been.

This album is a party where James Brown, Sly Stone, Herbie Hancock, Earth Wind and Fire, Parliament Funkadelics and the Meters are all jamming along in spirit. And revival breeds survival. Bringing back Charles Wright's "Express Yourself" the band teaches us how to rock forward to the rhythm of grit and virtuosity before showing us how to "Relax" on the breakaway track that makes me want to choreograph my first dance.

With a teasing dialogue between the saxaphones and the keyboard, "Relax" combines, jazz, funk and reggae with a refrain that moves through your shoulders, soothing through the chest into a swing of the hips that comes almost involuntarily. Even the way we relax is "moving" which adds to Lettuce's effective refusal of death.

Finally, the bonus track "Mr. Yancey", reminds us of the spirit of the greatest composer of our time. Emphasizing the bass drum and keyboards, this track walks beside the great J Dilla and fades out towards memory.

See this band live. Add this CD into your process of waking up. Eat your vegetables. Stay alive, by every means necessary.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

Political Cartoonist Art Young Was an Aficionado of all Things Infernal

Fantagraphics' new edition of Inferno takes Art Young's original Depression-era critique to the Trump Whitehouse -- and then drags it all to Hell.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

OK Go's Emotional New Ballad, "All Together Now", Inspired by Singer's Bout with COVID-19

Damian Kulash, lead singer for OK Go discusses his recent bout with COVID-19, how it impacted his family, and the band's latest pop delight, "All Together Now", as part of our Love in the Time of Coronavirus series.

Books

The Rules Don't Apply to These Nonconformist Novelists

Ian Haydn Smith's succinct biographies in Cult Writers: 50 Nonconformist Novelists You Need to Know entice even seasoned bibliophiles.

Music

Siren Songs' Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels Debut As a Folk Duo (album stream + interview)

Best friends and longtime musical collaborators Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels team up as Siren Songs for the uplifting folk of their eponymous LP.

Music

Buzzcocks' 1993 Comeback 'Trade Test Transmissions' Showed Punk's Great Survivors' Consistency

PopMatters' appraisal of Buzzcocks continues with the band's proper comeback LP, Trade Test Transmissions, now reissued on Cherry Red Records' new box-set, Sell You Everything.

Music

Archie Shepp, Raw Poetic, and Damu the Fudgemunk Enlighten and Enliven with 'Ocean Bridges'

Ocean Bridges is proof that genre crossovers can sound organic, and that the term "crossover" doesn't have to come loaded with gimmicky connotations. Maybe we're headed for a world in which genres are so fluid that the term is dropped altogether from the cultural lexicon.

Books

Claude McKay's 'Romance in Marseille' Is Ahead of Its Time

Claude McKay's Romance in Marseille -- only recently published -- pushes boundaries on sexuality, disability, identity -- all in gorgeous poetic prose.

Music

Christine Ott Brings the Ondes Martenot to New Heights with the Mesmerizing 'Chimères'

France's Christine Ott, known for her work as an orchestral musician and film composer, has created a unique new solo album, Chimères, that spotlights an obscure instrument.

Music

Man Alive! Is a Continued Display of the Grimy-Yet-Refined Magnetism of King Krule

Following The OOZ and its accolades, King Krule crafts a similarly hazy gem with Man Alive! that digs into his distinct aesthetic rather than forges new ground.

Books

The Kinks and Their Bad-Mannered English Decency

Mark Doyles biography of the Kinks might complement a seminar in British culture. Its tone and research prove its intent to articulate social critique through music for the masses.

Music

ONO Confronts American Racial Oppression with the Incendiary 'Red Summer'

Decades after their initial formation, legendary experimentalists ONO have made an album that's topical, vital, uncomfortable, and cathartic. Red Summer is an essential documentation of the ugliness and oppression of the United States.

Film

Silent Women Filmmakers No Longer So Silent: Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers

The works of silent filmmakers Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers were at risk of being forever lost. Kino Lorber offers their works on Blu-Ray. Three cheers for film historians and film restoration.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.