By Daniel Garrett
The Lions, This Generation
Produced by Connie Price with Steve Kaye and Blake Colie
Stones Throw Records, 2013
The twelve-song album This Generation by the reggae band The Lions is diversely rhythmic, topical, humorous, conscientious, in its attempts to be intelligent, even wise. The band features Deston Berry, Alex Desert, Malik Moore, and Black Shakespeare. This Generation recalls, a little, the music of the great band Black Uhuru, though it is not as startling or transcendent. And, something of the camaraderie of the group sound of The Specials, too. Both comparisons may be something forced—as I don’t listen to reggae often these days, thus do not have many more contemporary references. Apparently, the band was influenced by Jamaican music, especially by bands such as The Upsetters, Soul Syndicate, The Rockers Band and Roots Radics; and some of them played in Hepcat. The music is worth listening to again, to see what is there, whether it sustains…
On the album This Generation by the band The Lions: “Let me love or let me expire” is one line in “Bird on a Wire,” which has plaintive singing over a reggae beat. The song “This Generation” is carried by different voices. “Picture on the Wall,’ about leave-taking, is a romantic memory, sounding like a mix between doo-wop and reggae. There is a sense of male camaraderie in “Revelation,” and in the other songs, with harmonic and counter-posed male voices, a sense of distance, and the lack of the pretty or the subtle. Strongly instrumental is “New Girl,” featuring a horn—it has warmth, texture, even charm. “Pieces of a Man” is addressed to a woman; it is a romantic promise of care and fidelity, and has an inflection of soul music. Moody is “More/Higher Ways,” consisting of lyrics focused on the limits of current society—and the search for higher ideals and practices. “Jamie’s Cryin’,” a Roth/Van Halen song, is a communal witness to a girl’s heartbreak, followed by “Be Easy.” The advice “Son, don’t fight another’s reality’ is given in “Padre Ichiro,” which creates a narrative situation that might be dynamic, suggesting affection and pain, doubt and illumination. Closing, “Roll It Round” and “Let’s Go Out Tonight” have something of a sensual appeal.
Daniel Garrett, a graduate of the New School for Social Research, and the principal organizer of the Cultural Politics Discussion Group at Poets House, is a writer whose work has appeared in The African, All About Jazz, American Book Review, Art & Antiques, The Audubon Activist, Black Film Review, Changing Men, Cinetext, Contact II, Film International, The Humanist, Hyphen, Illuminations, Muse Apprentice Guild, Option, Pop Matters, Quarterly Black Review of Books, Rain Taxi, Red River Review, Review of Contemporary Fiction, Wax Poetics, and World Literature Today. Daniel Garrett has written extensively about international film for Offscreen, and comprehensive commentary on music for The Compulsive Reader.