Vibraphonist, percussionist, composer, and bandleader Mike Dillon has been a musical outsider since beginning his professional career more than 25 years ago. Though he's a jazz virtuoso, he's never restricted himself: he's played punk, post-punk, funk, rock, jazz, R&B, indie folk, and more, with his own bands and as a deft sideman and collaborator. Band of Outsiders features Dillon in the company of three New Orleans musicians: trombonist Carly Meyers, bassist Patrick McDevitt, and drummer Adam Gertner. Dillon handles electric vibes, marimba, xylophone, and a plethora of percussion instruments in addition to lead vocals. Everybody sings backup. There are a slew of guest spots by well-known friends, too. Band of Outsiders is unclassifiable; it careens across genres, tempos, dynamics, and textures with joy, fury, and an inherent spirit of mischief that the group developed over a the course of year spent touring through Mexico and Brazil. The set was recorded live from the studio floor with co-producers Richard Maloney and Gary Vandy. On "Head," one can hear distorted rhumba and mambo, knotted through Frank Zappa's ideas about harmony and arrangement. The snarling duet vocal between Dillon and Meyers on "Hand of God" is eclipsed only by its furious yet imaginative punk rock instrumental attack, which morphs into a Latin percussion groove sequence and second-line funk interlude with a call-and-response chorus before it switches back. The scathing satire in "Homeland Insecurity" recalls the intensity of the Flesh Eaters circa A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die, jamming with a young Red Hot Chili Peppers. Meyers' trombone goes head to head with guest Dave Rosser's gnarly guitar. "Hero the Burro" can only be described as Latin ska, with roiling kit work from Gertner and an expansive vibes, 'bone, bass, and guitar interlude (the latter courtesy of Joshua Rodriguez). "Carly Hates the Dubstep" is an arty rhythm attack that melds go-go and Konono No.1-style Afro-funk to punk rock, with Marco Benevento's keyboards adding to the grooving carnival of chaos. "Great Lakes Tuna" is hip-hop filtered through go-go and avant-NOLA funk, though the band has some fine jazz-rock chops as well, as displayed on the spacy groove of "Missing." The nasty montunos in "So Long Paul" are adorned with accordion (courtesy of Laura Scarborough), burning trombone vamps, vibes, Brazilian percussion, timbales, congas, popping snares, and a bassline that just won't quit. Closer "Dauphine & Desire" is a stew of strutting NOLA R&B strained through post-punk cabaret. On Band of Outsiders, Dillon's vision makes generous room for his influences but ultimately, it's also his own, articulated with grit and sophistication by his bandmates and friends. This album is for those who like their music, raw, bawdy, challenging, and outrageously humorous.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek