Warning! Black Creek Reign’s Excommunicado is an EP that, when played, will immediately cause involuntary movement from the waist down. It doesn’t matter where you are, what mood you are in, or if you possess any dancing abilities, these groovy tunes will have you bouncing around the entire time. Don’t fight it. Just let go and have yourself a grand old time. I know I did!
This is primal, fun music at its finest. That’s not to say that there isn’t some thought behind the lyrics. Unlike a lot of funk, there seems to be a strong anti-establishment tone in at least two of these tracks. It’s just that for better or worse this power trio from Toronto, ON will ultimately win you over with their melodic and rhythmic prowess. What this means is don’t think too much. Just shut up and dance!
Darren Armoogam, Lex Stultz, and Shane Joseph are absolutely stellar musicians and songwriters. The sheer amount of musical influences here are staggering. Hell, I classified them as Rock but that is vague at best. In only five songs, they touch on everything from Funk, Blues, Reggae, Gospel, Pop, Rock, and Soul. There’s also a strong 90s vibe going on here. Don’t believe me, check out “That Business Man,” which lovingly pilfers the “all that glitters is gold” line from Smash Mouth, not to mention that the chorus sounds A LOT like “Walking on The Sun.” In some instances, this proves to put a damper on the good time energy as the production values threaten to bury Lex Stultz 70s dance-infused bass lines. Other times, you’ll be reminded of why you loved the 90s in the first place. The whole time I kept thinking this what Lenny Kravitz SHOULD sound like in the 21st Century!
What impresses me most about this EP is how self-assured it is. Black Creek Reign know exactly who they are and what they want to do. It is very very hard not to be charmed by these guys. The only flaw is when they try to insert a message into their music. “Preacher” is probably most guilty of this. It’s still one of the strongest songs here and lines like: “Preacher man says put your money in the bowl/ And Jesus saves your sin only if you pay the toll” are drenched in delicious cynicism that is begging to be delivered with raw, inhibited energy. Unfortunately, Darren Armoogam’s swagger prevents the words from having much of an impact. Don’t get me wrong, he is an extremely talented vocalist, there are just little moments like this where his delivery can be a tad on the hammy side.
Ultimately, though, I’m being nitpicky. For a first EP, Excommunicado is way stronger than most people can hope to achieve. I mean, I’ve already started recommending this to friends who are die-hard funk aficionados, that’s how immediately likeable I find it. There is so much to love! There are face melting guitar solos, intense bass slaps, catchy choruses as well as a rhythm section that just won’t quit. I also hope that they DO keep exploring their more rebellious side as well, which might mean getting a little bit more down and dirty on the production side of things. Until then, I’m going to put this on and dance around my apartment like a goofy idiot.
Written by Shawn Thicke
*edited by Danielle Kenedy