CD Review of Listen Hear by Dumpstaphunk

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Listen Hear
starstarstarstarno star Label: DU Records
Released: 2007
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Ivan (son of Aaron) Neville's New Orleans rockin' funk band features old-school social conscience, hard grooves, and even a great Bootsy Collins impression. It ain't your pappy's Meters record, however. Thinner, rawer guitars and amazingly dexterous popping bass lines fuel the updated sound--and will definitely draw in some of the new-school fans of funk-metal weaned on Primus and its ilk.

The Meters, founded by Ivan's uncle Art and joined later on by Uncle Cyril, were all about having a good time, and they still are. Their records stand the test of time as funk classics, up with the likes of Parliament and Sly Stone. But nearly 30 years after their first breakup, lots of water has flowed under the bridge, dig? And in the case of Katrina, flowed over the levees. And in the case of singer and keyboardist extraordinaire Ivan Neville, through his veins.

Seasoned by his experiences, Ivan leads the band like a wary Army sergeant leading his troops over the American social wasteland. "People dyin' for nuthin, some dyin' in vain," belts out the call-and-response rundown of social ills "Livin’ in a World Gone Mad" ("They took the music out of schools, gave them guns instead"). By the time he gets to "I'll just do a little hit of something, just to take offa the edge," it's hard to tell whether he's talking about the sad state of weak-minded people who can't take life as it comes in this crazy Bush autocracy, himself, or maybe floating out a suggestion to us listeners as we take in the wicked, pounding groove and consider how our political leadership has indeed driven the whole country into the dumpster.

And that's just the first song. Up next, in "Turn This Thing Around," Neville morphs into a pleading street preacher, calling for understanding and compassion for the homeless, people with mental health issues, victims of natural disasters, and yes, even the politicians. Not just from you or the Republican clowns, either, but from all of us. The rest of the 5-song EP comprises "Stinky," a tight little jam, the slow burner "Meanwhile...," and "Shake it Off," a six-minute magnum-opus benediction built on the line "Don't let them haters piss you off."

The thing is, these guys are battle-tested New Orleanians throwin' down. The songs have a street cred, an authenticity, like Mavis Staples singing "I'll Take You There," or Sly extolling the virtues of everyday people. These aren't some cookie-cutter suburban boys who learned to play their guitars last week and are getting a seven-figure record deal because some BlackBerry-wielding marketing stiff thinks they could be his meal ticket. They're for real. As such, they remain on the down-low, far away from the mainstream radio waves, getting their music out to the fans through avenues like MySpace and their own record label. Kind of like the Meters, actually; despite their legend, most people outside of the Crescent City don't actually own their records or can name any of their tunes beyond possibly "Cissy Strut." Be the first on the bandwagon so, after they take over the place, you can say you knew Dumpstaphunk back when.

~Mojo Flucke, PhD