Newer musical discoveries can be nice, but whoever said the 70's were over was clearly mistaken, because Fitz & The Tantrums play soul like no current band does today. In fact, Pickin' Up The Pieces has so much soul for it's 10 tracks that it's as if the 70's never left. That isn't to say that it's a bad thing, but it's not necessarily everyone's dig. It also doesn't help that this is a band from Los Angeles, a place that has yet to really hold down a signature sound but plays up to some big names in rock, hip-hop, and rap outfits.
It could be good, then, that there's a band out there that is trying to re-envision a time when clapping your hands and big fuzzy bass surrounded the landscape, perhaps a time that felt right amidst the decay of American pop culture. To that I say I'm quite fine with it, but it doesn't make it a perfect world.
"Breakin' the Chains of Love" kicks off with a good jam, and then slowly but surely it brings in the electric organ, tambourine and saxophone that YOU KNOW make up the majority of Mo-Town hit-makers like The Jackson 5 or Marvin Gaye. "Dear President" only reconfirms this case, maybe even moreso, teetering on pure imitation. The title track does a better job at adding some uniqueness, incorporating much lighter sweeps and harmonics. I can only wish the rest of the album follows a similar pattern, but it ends up more like listening to Sly and the Family Stone without the lyrical snazziness or appreciated funk. The album closer "Tighter" could be considered a nice addition, but that's after you've sat through six other tracks of similarity.
Does it all matter that they're a throwback band? Of course not. There's no doubt that they have the tenacity to bring soul back to a community that just can't make up it's mind over which sound is more preferable, though it was a better impression on the music scene 40 years ago. I would take a teaspoon of this any day, but there's that urge to feel fresh that I can't take with a tablespoon.
Fitz & the Tantrums - "Pickin' Up The Pieces"
Fitz & the Tantrums - "Tighter"
Pickin' Up the Pieces is available now on Dangerbird Records.