I really wanted to like The Band Called Oh (N) album more. Everything about it on paper ticks many of my personal creative boxes.
An album built around the concept of Guerrilla Gardening, a movement that sought to improve the urban decay of 60’s New York is certainly a brave and fascinating idea. One which weaves politics and ecology with form-shifting progressive pop, chimes with the distant echoes of soul music’s revolutionary battlecry and explores forward thinking “music as art” potential.
As things go it already stands out from the crowd. But a great idea is as only as good as its realisation and whilst there is much here that is great, there is a fractured quality which seems pull the rug out from under its own musical feet.
Tracks such as Grow are wonderful pieces of glitchy future-soul, just familiar enough to the modern soul seeker but also playing with the possibilities of how we move that particular generic ball forward and Passport pushes such boundaries even further, shimmering R&B meets computerised pop. But Passport also highlights some of the problem with the album. Weighing in at just under a minute the track is just a taster, an unexplored groove, and unresolved idea, and whilst this is fun the first time it happens, leaving you wondering where they are going with this, it is a card they play just too often and one which breaks the continuity. Such interludes from plaintive piano runs to samples of Donald Trump to musings about i-phones just seem to deviate from what is otherwise a fascinating central concept.
But when they get things right, they get it very right.
Apples is a hard groover which mixes old school funk rock sensibilities with modern chilled pop balladry, Next To Me is a sultry slice of late night R&B and Evergreen could even find itself wandering the commercial pop charts. But at 22 tracks, many of which seem to deviate from the cause, the overall effect feels unfocused.
What on paper seems to be a concept album based around a really cool idea ends up as not only merely an album of concepts but an album of far too many concepts to really win through, and that's a real shame.