Poi Dog Pondering | 7 (Platetechtonic)

poidogpondering.jpgOn 7, Frank Orrall and company bring the energy to the forefront and deliver a collection made for the concert stage.

 

 

 

 

 

Chicago mainstays Poi Dog Pondering have shifted their sound more towards soul and R&B in recent years, which has caused some cynics to dismiss them as a “party band.” However, their last album, In Seed Comes Fruit,offered stunning arrangements of surprising beauty that still works in a live setting. On 7, Frank Orrall and company bring the energy to the forefront and deliver a collection made for the concert stage. Unfortunately, this material does fall well short of the previous records and lacks the cohesion of the energetic band’s best work.

The focus on danceable grooves appears to have limited the lyrics, which are definitely not the strongest in Poi Dog Pondering’s history. Tunes like “Maybe Baby?” and the very repetitive “Candy” — both focusing on hooking up — deliver upbeat melodies, but a closer listen reveals some less-than-inspiring statements. Lines such as “I’m gonna turn you upside down/I’m gonna eat you from the inside out” are laughable and pale in comparison to Orrall’s best work. It’s obvious the band is having fun and enjoying themselves, which may translate well on stage but falls short when removed from that animated setting. There are some exceptions, particularly “From This Moment On,” which offers both memorable instrumental backing and stellar lyrics. It’s far from their best output, but the supporting horns and an effective chorus overcome most of its shortcomings. Another solid entry is “Lemon Drop Man,” which offers an engaging tempo while covering similar themes.

The album does slow down periodically, and a few worthy gems do generate a pleasant mood. The whispery tones of “Butterflies” resemble the quiet, soulful moments from their excellent Pomegranate album. Both that release and In Seed Comes Fruit are consistently successful and contain few clunkers. The combination of lush melodies and effective lyrics was common on those records but occur less frequently here.  Poi Dog Pondering has always been much stronger live than in the studio, but their releases were still enjoyable. This offering doesn’t fail completely, but the inconsistent nature is a major disappointment. The quality of the instrumentation remains high, but this effort represents a step back for Orrall and his talented band mates. | Dan Heaton

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