Album Reviews

The Scott 4 Free Rock Orchestra – E.S.P

(Tiny Dog) UK release date: 14 March 2005

You have it. You lose it. You get it back. You get it workin’. Your woman runs off with it. James Brown ran on the stuff. Is your mojo working? Sooner or later, musicians return to the low-down and dirty reasons they got into this music lark. Primitive. Basic. Squelchy. Funk. When it works, it’s as natural as breathing. When it doesn’t it’s as unnatural as leggings. So the question you have to ask yourself is, does my funk look big in this?

Scott 4, under their latest moniker, serve up slabs of electro-funk with a sprinkling of honky indie plunderphonics. White boys getting down is no new phenomenon. Step forward Har Mar Superstar and Beck to name but two. From the Scotts’ initial baptism through the electro-krautrock dreaming of their debut Works Project to these steamy shores, Scott 4 have never been scared of treading a more eclectic and resolutely uncommercial path than their peers.

Comparisons and influences come thick and fast, from the delicious slabs of surging Gap Band groove, the aforementioned Beck (circa Midnite Vultures), through to the sampled funky drummer breaks and the clipped guitar strutting like peacocks. Vocals are vocodered and tweaked against a dirty backing of malfunctioing electronica beats rolling in deep funk, with cooing backing vocals and understated beats. At times the gauche white-boy soul does sit self-consciously, and perhaps knowingly so, but on the whole it works like those other blues abusers Alabama 3 but without the corny accents.

Beckoned in by the spectral computer vox on E.S.P. things kick off on a slouching low-slung roll of Gap Band funk beats. Welcome The Ants continues almost seamlessly loping along on a Manchester monkey tip albeit for the bizarro lyrics repeating the title mantra-style. Burn On threatens to mutate into Another One Bites The Dust were it not for the self-conscious white-boy soul ‘our cheapness is our only weakness’. Cosmos In Our Pocket is a mild-mannered comical foray into mind exploration over a squelching orchestral meander with rock guitars. Honest.

I Am Mental ironically slows things down to a blissed slide guitar workout over chilled beats with a beautiful flow. Like the soul pastiches of Lambchop taken into another galaxy of oddness from their dusty domestica, Scott 4 lyrics always sneak under the radar with their tales of random psychosis and abstract mannerisms that leave you stirred but not shaken. Songs tend to flow into each other woozily retreading samey sounds to create a groovy fug of familiarity, although at times it does test the patience and some variation of pace wouldn’t go amiss.

Life Is Goo features axe-work a plenty spinning off into some cosmic jam worthy of Parliament/Funkadelic over a sturdy electro-rock backing. Things are reined in for the delicate piano led Smile Symphony to wash off the excesses of funk to leave us pure and restored.

So did their funk look big in this? While the spandex was never really stretched into a vicious fatback boogie, the head was tweaked and nodded in ironic appreciation. Like those other white boy groove-fiends the Wolfgang Press, Scott 4 are mutating into some funky little demons.

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The Scott 4 Free Rock Orchestra – E.S.P