Careering from one musical influence to another, "Sharkey's Machine" is a wild -- but comfortable -- ride. Sharkey, a Washington native, uses the language of hip-hop, electronica, blues and even a little ska-lite at times as fuel for his official solo debut (he's worked with such notables as Rick Rubin, Eminem and Everlast in the past). It's no surprise that Sharkey's sound is eclectic. Co-producing several of the songs is Mickey Petralia, who has produced the stylistic melting pot Beck, and Beastie Boys producer Mario Caldato Jr. also turns up on the CD.
Although it's a busy work, with beats, spoken-word samples, raps, choruses and even a mediocre Sean Connery impression, it never goes just for flash and dash. Instead, it's a very musical piece, with the vocals, sound effects and groove all merging in service of each song. And they are songs, not turntable displays.
"Little Cabin Song" is a prime example. It has a warm, live feel, reminiscent of early Soul Coughing. And thanks to touches such as a slide guitar, the sound matches the lyrics, about retreating to a cabin in the woods, perfectly. "If It Fits" has an urban edge with an Eastern base from which the rest of the song flows.
There are two standout tracks. One is "Summer in the City (Lovin' It)" with a stellar turn by guest rapper Jean Grae (of the top-notch album "Attack of the Attacking Things"). Its bounce belies its apocalyptic vision. The other highlight is "Slo-Mo in the Grotto," a jazzy track that begs for a room of chill lighting and Italian chaises.
Grae is not the only notable guest from the land of rap. Cannibal Ox rhymes on "Fuzz," Cherrywine (formerly Butterfly of Digable Planets) engages in "Phone Sex," Grand Puba "entertains guests in the basement like Tigga" on "All for Nothing" and the Pharcyde gets its '60s lounge vibe on with "Snobird." Seattle pop-rock band Billy Moon and frequent Sharkey collaborator Zooks also make multiple appearances.
"Sharkey's Machine" is all over the map, but it hangs together -- listening to it is like hearing the soundtrack of a party at the house of the coolest record geek you know. This "Machine" may have a lot of disparate parts, but it hums.
-- Curt Fields
Appearing Friday at the Blue Room. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Sharkey, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8109. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)