Fresh from creating an opera about the life of Libyan leader Colonel Gadaffi in collaboration with English National Opera, one of Britain’s most important bands follow up 2003’s Enemy Of The Enemy with their latest raging rant against the political elite, Tank.
Asian Dub Foundation‘s latest is not an album to be listened to late at night in a dark room. From the opening riff of lead single Flyover, a two-step riot of ragga vocals and wild pumping drums, it’s obvious that ADF’s live gigs in support of this record will be nothing less than incendiary.
ADF are of course more than beatmongers, being one of the most political music acts around. Tank is their fifth album and they show no sign of mellowing. Instead they have crafted their most surefooted record to date – and even those minded to ignore the political dimension of the band’s output cannot fail to be impressed by the seam of sonic energy running richly through this most rhythmic of records.
Not everything on Tank rails against those in charge of our fates. Hope, with its optimistic chords and expansive introduction, is as close as ADF come to a youth movement manifesto, and Take Back The Power continues the notion of a musical instruction manual for changing the world as we know it.
Less frenetic though no less powerful is The Round-up. As the Home Secretary rushes through legislation to give politicians powers to arrest and detain people without charge, ADF ask the question: Where does it stop? “Dem come for de rasta and you say nothing / Dem come for the muslims and you say nothing / Dem come for the anti-globalists and you say nothing / Dem even come for the liberals and you say nothing / Dem come for you – And who will speak for you?”
Oil is another obvious single, the lyrics of which lash out at (guess who) George W Bush, “petro-junkies” and “SUVs with warheads”. Elsewhere, the album’s title track harks back to Michael Moore’s use of interviews with US tank soldiers in Iraq in his film Fahrenheit 9/11, the soldiers admitting they played death metal as they drove their war machines into battle, shooting civilians who happened to be in the way. It is one of several vocal parts on this record that call to mind Horace Andy‘s work for Massive Attack, but the theme of ADF’s words is far more intense.
Harking back to Dhol Rinse from Enemy of the Enemy, Warring Dhol – built on an infectious phrase of dhol – is another highlight. Immediately afterwards comes the reggae-tinged Tomorrow Comes Today, which is nothing to do with the Gorillaz track of the same name. Together with the closing instrumental piece Melody Seven it amply shows the impressive range of music this band can turn their tools to.
ADF’s characteristic riffs, played mainly on synth here, sound as though they’ve been written for sitar. All are as punchy as the drums and politics and are emphasised with dub bass and infectious and intricately arranged beats.
The band’s growing success is not only down to them having plenty to say. Their articulate messages are, though important, a single part of a heady mix that includes superb musicianship and energy. ADF are the complete package then and, on the evidence presented here, they’re getting stronger. With Tank they stake their claim for the mainstream success their talent deserves without losing the smallest part of their originality or intentions.