Think of One might just be the perfect band: precociously talented, resolutely itinerant and musically fearless. Their last album, Tráfico was a joyful outpouring of ideas from anarchic Belgians encountering North Eastern Brazilians but can they pull off the same trick with Moroccan shaâbi music?
Camping Shaâbi is not quite as effortless and exhilarating as its predecessors and it has a grittier feel. It is less the music of Morocco though than an imagined adventure in the poor underbelly of Paris, Barcelona, Antwerp or Amsterdam. Their trademark wall of instruments, time shifts, repetitive choruses and demented fiddling open an album that will at times veer off into territory more heavy metal than heavy fusion. Other tracks remind the listener of ‘Ghost Town’ covered by Genesis and sung in French.
Undoubtedly these experiments will work for some but if like me, you find your attention levels inversely related to the ‘progressive rock’ element in music, despair not. There is plenty of punky fire and Mahgreb intoxication to go round on the majority of the tracks. ‘Antwaarpse Shaâbi’ for example interwtines these elements skilfully and then amplifies them as it builds to a swirling gnawi crescendo.
And perhaps ironically for a group that ploughs a similar furrow to Manu Chao (but in a mostly different way), the most engaging track on the album could have easily come off one of his albums. ‘Ou Tu Vas’ thrums along at a jolly clip, guitars blazing away, alternating male and female verses and as a perfect etnicopop moment it is marred only by an unnecessary but brief synth solo in the middle.
Catch them live in February when they make two all-too-rare visits to the UK:
27-Feb, 2008 — Komedia Brighton, BN1 1UN
28-Feb, 2008 — London’s Romanian Restaurant, 32 Old Bailey, EC4M 7HS