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The third album by L.A.'s Negro Problem (and the first since golden-throated singer-guitarist Mark "Stew" Stewart took a three-year break to work on his solo career) is a delight on every level. These lyrics-driven songs memorably mutate funk, baroque '60s pop, lounge music, '80s synth pop, classic Tin Pan Alley, and psychedelic rock. The disc sounds like the Bonzo Dog Band, Vernon Reid, Cole Porter, and Arthur Lee collaborating on a tribute to Jacques Brel. The lyrics drop serious the-personal-is-political science while still exhibiting humor. The only problem lies with the album's eclecticism; an artist can be too talented and versatile for his own good (see Cardinal and Chocolate Genius). However, in an alternate universe where the charts teem with literate pop, "I'm Sebastian Cabot," "Astro Sister," and "Is This the Single?" rule the airwaves. --Mike McGonigal
Top customer reviews
Really, if you think Steely Dan or Elvis Costello write literate, sarcastic lyrics, Negro Problem is like that times 10. If you have a high tolerance for sarcasm and irony (like me) you'll love this, but most people can't take it. The first time I played it, I didn't like it nearly as much as "Post Minstrel Syndrome". After a couple plays, I was hooked. It may take a couple plays to grab you.
The lyrics here are so sharp, so often funny, sometimes really poetic, and packed with perfect, unexpected rhymes. I'm tempted to quote all of "Bermuda Love Triangle", which tells a funny story with great, internal rhymes built into each line; but then I'd give away the twist ending. "I'm Sebastian Cabot" and "Lime Green Sweater" likewise have lots of wit and perfect rhymes with great back-and-forth between the singers.
Sometimes they're too clever for their own good. The song "Is This The Single" makes fun of record companies guys who are focused on producing hits. It's a big 'f--- you' to the record company. I can only imagine what TNP's record company's executives must have thought when TNP first played that song for them. As for the song itself, it's almost a single-- catchy, almost a hit-- but too laden with synthesizers to really ignite. So, once again, TNP has no single.
The songs on this CD are more mellow than on the previous "Post Minstrel Syndrome" -- there is nothing as energetic as "Buzzing" from PMS. Whereas PMS sounded unlike anything except maybe They Might Be Giants or Elvis Costello, "Welcome Black" sounds like nothing except the song book for the coolest musical never written. Stew should really write songs for Broadway musicals-- he'd be better than Stephen Sondheim and the execrable Andrew Lloyd Webber, because Stew is edgy and rock n' roll.
Now I've got "The Watering Hole" stuck in my brain. That song is the mellowest on the CD, and I can't get it out of my head, it's so slow and cool. Worth it to buy the CD for that song alone. "You can find me... at the watering hole..."
Seriously though, this is classic music at its best! I've not done this album justice enough by this review, but take my word for it, practically every song on this album is great easy listening and fun for the whole gang!
I own everything they've put out & am anxiously awaiting the arrival of his new solo effort from this very website (in essence, "TNP" is Stew, so solo, or with band - the music is superb). Buy their albums, await their arrival, and only tell your close friends. Overexposure is death to any good band! (as you're probably well aware). Listen and judge for yourself. I'm sure you'll get hooked.