Record Review - 2 November 06 2003

It begins with drums.

They not only kick off the first new studio album in three years from this funky New Orleans outfit, but also energize every cut on it. Powerhouse percussionist Stanton Moore sets the groove and the rest of the band jumps aboard. MIA are the jams that attracted Galactic’s primary audience, replaced by compact songs that never crack four minutes.

Producer Dan The Automator helps fuel Galactic’s blast into orbit. The trackmaster behind Dr. Octagon, Gorillaz and Handsome Boy Modeling School twists enough knobs to reprocess the band’s sound, while maintaining the Meters’ rhythms at their core. Although still on an organic road, the album is driven by loops and synths, which augment, but don’t replace organ, electric piano and sax.

There’s more experimentation here than on Galactic’s first three releases combined, as newly added harmonica and acoustic guitar join with the unstoppable rhythm section and Theryl de’Clouet’s Bourbon Street vocals. The Automator leaves breathing room even as he emphasizes grinding, industrial strength beats that materialize and disappear with disarming glee.

Songs like “Kid Kenner” and the instrumental “Doomed” morph through so many changes in three minutes that they seem like mini-albums. Not surprisingly, with all the sonic shenanigans, the tunes on rare occasions flounder as their melodies sublimate to the production.

Jam fans will likely be perplexed by the offbeat song structures. But Galactic’s ruckus is a welcome change and a banging, clanging success.

Galactic plays the Roxy Fri.-Sat., Nov. 7-8. $20.