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Alabama 3 – Shoplifting 4 Jesus (Review)

Alabama 3, Shoplifting 4 Jesus

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

ALABAMA 3 continue to do things in their inimitable style with latest album, Shoplifting 4 Jesus, a collection of songs reportedly inspired by last year’s London riots.

The result is very much an acquired taste and maybe their least accessible LP yet. It maintains the band’s penchant for making ‘sweet Pretty Muthafu*kin Country Acid House Music’ but minus the absence of harmonica player Piers Marsh it also has a greater electronic and rap influence.

That said, pinning it down to any one genre is mostly impossible as their songs defy easy categorisation. They’re very much their own entities, sampling at random while dropping in surprise guest appearances.

Ray Winstone, for instance, crops up on album opener Have You Been Having A Nightmare?, which opens in foreboding fashion with a grim intro from the actor himself quoting Exodus and uttering the final “kill ‘em all” line with extreme menace.

The remainder of the song then drops an electro-pop vibe that sound-checks Will.I.Am, Californian soul and country acid house all in one, thereby underlining the constantly shifting, occasionally uncomfortable nature of the ensuing album.
Indeed, if you struggle to cope with the myriad directions this album opener takes, you may well be in for a difficult journey.

I Blame Kurt Cobain opens with the lyric “suffer the little children that cometh to me”, before dropping a menacing urban chant, and then a deep-throated vocal from Larry Love that lays the blame for the disaffection seen by last year’s rioting youths at the feet of Kurt Kobain. It’s an odd record and one that is difficult to say you actually ‘like’, even though it’s oddly compulsive.

But then the same can be said for the remainder of proceedings, which also finds Happy Mondays’ Bez reading solemnly from the Sermon on the Mount, Martina Cole reciting the story of Mary Magdalene at the Well, and samples from everyone from KC & The Sunshine Band to George Harrison.

If there are highlights, they’re spread out and still require several listens. Stole The Moon is an early one, Saved another by virtue of its great harmonica intro and retro Alabama 3 attitude (it’s hear you can recall their Sopranos career best form), and Facebook.con, which makes good use of a bluesy guitar intro and makes a deserved mockery of the current trend for social networking and social media as well as the idiots who use it to destructive effect.

Black Dog, meanwhile, finds the album at its most approachable, gloriously sampling George Harrison’s Hallelujah, and trading off a fantastically gruff vocal from Love (who is on defiant form).

Elsewhere,It’s About That Time is an old-skool hip hop offering that also maintains an R’n’B influence, Wrong is Right finds Love in preacher mode as if to underline the album’s Biblical feel (albeit ‘the Bible-as-Communist manifesto’), and Summer In The City adds police sirens into an almost a capella rap (early on) before bringing in a gospel and blues vibe.

All told, it’s a very curious production… occasionally divine, sometimes socially very aware and at other times an unholy mess (much like the state of the nation at times). But can we recommend it? It’s definitely worth a listen.

Download picks: Stole The Moon, Saved, Black Dog, Facebook.con, Let’s Go Out 2Nite

Track listing:

  1. Have You Been Having A Nightmare?
  2. I Blame Kurt Cobain
  3. We Stole The Moon
  4. It’s About That Time
  5. Star Intro
  6. I’ve Been Seeing Stars (Ain’t Seen The Light)
  7. Saved
  8. Facebook.con
  9. Black Dog
  10. Summer In The City
  11. Who The Fuck Is John Sinclair?
  12. Let’s Go Out 2Nite
  13. Abide With Me