Quick Spins: Reviews of CDs

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Gorilla Zoe

Atlanta rapper Gorilla Zoe is certainly no guerrilla. While the state of America's economy and a new presidential administration have inspired all manner of rappers to rebel against simple club music and get political, Zoe maintains a money-flashing, hard-partying mentality. His sophomore effort, "Don't Feed Da Animals," sounds as if it's trapped in a 2003 time capsule filled with diamonds, liquor and spinning rims.

Zoe does compare himself to President Obama at one point, in a brief nod to current events, but it's dope, rather than hope the former Boyz N Da Hood member is pushing on "Dope Boys." And on "Hood Clap," Zoe brags that he's so well-paid that "I can't even spell recession." Classy.

"What It Is," featuring Rick Ross, is nothing more than boasts about cars, money, women, as is "HelluvaLife." Sadly, the talk of riches most will never possess isn't even descriptive enough to provide working stiffs with material for a decent daydream about living the good life.

Zoe does try to dig deeper in a couple of spots. "Man I" is a high point, with its bouncy track and lyrics chronicling just how broke Zoe used to be and how much has changed since he became famous (the one constant: He still longs for Jada Pinkett Smith). The lead single "Lost," which explores Zoe's loneliness, starts off promisingly, but takes a bad turn when he decides to fill the hole in his soul by hitting the strip club. By the time the tongue-in-cheek "I'm Dumb" rolls around, it's hard not to take Zoe's words literally.

-- Sarah Godfrey



Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears

Too many garage bands enthralled with '60s blues and soul tend to be either too slavish or tongue-in-cheek for their own good. Not this unhinged eight-piece from Austin, which, galvanized by strutting singer and lead guitarist Joe Lewis, walks a fine and only occasionally ironic line between those approaches.

Sure, the set-opening "Gunpowder" sports bleating horns like those that hooked the Bar-Kays' 1967 hit, "Soul Finger." And Sugarfoot," the grinding workout that follows, is goosed by a scooting undertow that recalls Archie Bell and the Drells' 1968 "Tighten Up."

But ultimately these tracks sound nothing like the records their sample-like nods evoke. Pushing their source material as far as it will go, Lewis and company inevitably lock into a groove that, equal parts punk and post-hip-hop soul, stands well enough on its own.

"Boogie" offers a dramatic case in point, updating the languid swamp blues of Slim Harpo with accelerated tempos and squalling overlays of vamping organ and electric guitar. Triggered by an old-school funk break beat, "Humpin' " opens outward and aspires to almost progressive heights.

A gruff shouter in the tradition of Wilson Pickett, Lewis never fails to whip his band into a frenzy, his declamatory vocals as elemental as the nitty-gritty concerns he explores in songs such as "Big Booty Woman" and "I'm Broke." As these titles suggest, there's some mugging going on here, but the Honeybears do what they do so well, and have so much fun doing it, that any whiff of dilettantism is just that -- trifling.

-- Bill Friskics-Warren

DOWNLOAD THESE: "Sugarfoot," "Boogie," "I'm Broke"

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