By Al Kaufman
Yes, the new ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra) CD was produced by Jack Johnson, recorded in his solar powered studio in Hawaii, and distributed on his Brushfire record label. And, yes, it has a certain laid-back surfer sound to it, but while too much Jack Johnson can have a certain Sominex effect on listeners, ALO is just too musical to let that happen.
The opening two tracks, “Suspended” and “States of Friction,” combine the full sound of Peter Gabriel with the lazy, shuffling melodies of Jacob Dylan. The songs feel both lush and ragged, and ultimately gorgeous, like a world music jam band that knows how to tighten the reins.
Those songs then give way to the title track, a sort of Americana shuffle, the type of which quintessential Texas band, the Gourds, would put out. It offers a nice change of pace, something other bands to which they draw comparisons, such as the Dave Matthews Band, have difficulty achieving.
ALO continue mixing it up throughout the rest of the CD. “I Wanna Feel It” is Wilco at their most melancholy, and “Gardener’s Grave” approaches Pink Floyd in the Dark Side era. They’re also not afraid to fuzz up the guitars on the bluesy “The Champ.”
By the time the CD closes with “I Love Music,” you can forgive them for their hippie sentimentality. After listening to them for over an hour, lyrics such as “I can’t tell who’s running this thing/The music we play or the love that you bring” seem nothing but sincere.