Rocket Juice & the Moon
Rocket Juice & the Moon
Damon Albarn is a man who has worn many hats. In the last ten years, he has released albums with four different bands (most notably Gorillaz and Blur), all projects which have been more than respectable. Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers fame is another person who has started spreading his wings, having played with Thom Yorke’s super group Atoms for Peace and now with this new project with Albarn. Rocket Juice & the Moon is a space funk super group from Damon Albarn, Flea (bass), and Tony Allen (drums) from Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti’s band. For their self-titled debut release, the funk trio also pulls in plenty of guests from rappers to brass bands to world music artists, for what is no doubt a fun listen but not much beyond that.
Albarn has dipped into African music before on several of his projects, most notably on The Good, The Bad, & The Queen (a band he also shared with Tony Allen), but Rocket Juice no doubt takes this onto a new level, delivering some fully formed Afrobeat and West African funk, especially on songs like “Lolo” and “Follow-Fashion”, two songs that stick more to traditional Afrobeat. There are a few songs that lie as oddities on Rocket Juice, with the most obvious being “Poison”, an Albarn sung ballad that would be well fit on a Blur album but feels odd and singular on such a free form project as Rocket Juice & the Moon. Although Albarn clearly seems like the odd man out on this project that mostly includes people steeped in funk and African music, Albarn’s experience with Gorillaz, another fairly shapeless project even if it was mostly pop-based, makes Albarn a rare talent and surprising fit for this sort of thing.
A rule of thumb is anytime you include the smoothest chick in funk, Erykah Badu, your project will always turn into gold, and Rocket Juice & the Moon is no exception. Badu is included in “Hey Shooter”, an ultra-slick space funk track that jumps on its fair share of detours but stays strongly steered by a great hook. Badu can also be found on “Dam[n]” (an appropriately titled funk title if there ever was one), a song that remains even keel and plain cool especially with the clever wordplay of Ghanian rapper M.anifest, who also figures prominently on the album.
While enjoyable, the album, as told by the cover art, feels quickly thrown together and a wee bit too casual. Tracks like “1-2-3-4-5-6”, “Rotary Connection”, and “Worries” serve as segues and don’t do much more than provide ancillary content that doesn’t add much in terms of keeping the album cohesive.
While the album comes in at a long 17 tracks and is mostly good but never great, Rocket Juice & the Moon is a band that would surely be excellent live, as the live audio and footage I have caught of the band is way more charismatic and captivating than the album itself. For this I say, give the album a try, but like most funk and jam-based bands, you would be better off dropping money on a concert ticket than the album on iTunes,
Can’t Miss: “Hey Shooter”, “Extinguished”, “Follow-Fashion”
Can’t Hit: “1-2-3-4-5-6”, “Forward Sweep”, “Leave Taking”