August 17, 2006

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Michael Franti and Spearhead, Yell Fire!
Boo Boo Wax, 2006

Just what you need for the end of summer: laid-back pop-reggae with techno and hip-hop edges, shades of Jack Johnson with a tinge of Eddie “Electric Avenue” Grant, a U2 moment here, an Eminem moment there, plus one “No Woman No Cry” soundalike. Lyrically, it’s all peace, bro. Musically, it’s sometimes mellow and sometimes rousing.

Michael Franti spent some time in Iraq – observing, not soldiering – as reflected in the song “I Know I’m Not Alone” and the DVD of the same name. He is the force behind the Power to the Peaceful festival and author of the slogan-lyric “We can bomb the world to pieces but we can’t bomb it into peace,” from “Bomb the World” on 2003’s Everyone Deserves Music. Whereas that album leaned disco in places, Yell Fire! is more trippy rap; witness the almost bubble-gum catchy “Hey Now Now” and the anthemic title song’s lyrics: “Everyone addicted to the same nicotine / Everyone addicted to the same gasoline / everyone addicted to a Technicolor screen / Everybody tryin’ to get their hands on the same green.”

The antiwar tone starts with the very first lyrics on the disc, “Those who start wars never fight them,” and stays ’til the the last muttered phrase, “Believe in coexistence.” That is, unless that song about “little lies” is really about some ex-lover, and not about the government.

“We want freedom of speech but we all talkin’ at the same timeWe say we want peace but nobody wants to change their own mind.”

Why haven’t I heard more of Michael Franti & Spearhead before this? B

— Lisa Parsons


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