Sam Roberts Band album review: ‘Lo-Fantasy’

Dave Gillespie - The Sam Roberts Band will perform in the Washington, DC area.

SAM ROBERTS BAND

“Lo-Fantasy”

Kindred spirits: The Clash, the Police,
the Fireman

Show: With Clones of Clones on Saturday at the Rock & Roll Hotel. Show starts at 8 p.m. 202-388-7625. www.rockandrollhoteldc.com. $15.

Taking a musical gamble with its fifth album, “Lo-Fantasy,” Sam Roberts Band chose to work with Youth, a British producer known for dub-punk and electronica, not earnest folk-rock. The collaboration’s more adventurous output, however, ended up on the bonus second disc. The music on the first CD is pretty mainstream, enlivened but hardly transformed by punky vehemence and hints of soul, disco and reggae.

Although well-known in Canada, the Montreal quintet doesn’t have much of a following south of the border. “Lo-Fantasy” is strong enough to change that. The spirited “Shapeshifters” and “We’re All in This Together” boast spry rhythms and memorable choruses, while “The Hands of Love” and “Golden Hour” emulate the better moments of Tears for Fears and Sting, respectively. If the lyrics are indistinctive and their messages conventional, those are fairly common pop-music shortcomings.

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The album was finished at Youth’s studio in Spain, where he and engineer Eddie Banda did dance remixes as the original tracks were still in progress. This overlap may not have shaped the main material, but such tunes as “Metal Skin” and “Chasing the Light” nudge the group’s music further out onto the dance floor than ever before. Maybe that’s where Sam Roberts Band will finally find a wider audience.

— Mark Jenkins

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