Smooth New York jazz rappers Fun Lovin' Criminals have quietly built their popularity stateside and particularly in Europe over the last six years by wrapping their tales of the Big Apple's underbelly with sweet grooves and live instrumentation akin to Cake, the Roots, and Luscious Jackson. The smoothness of their grooves and underground culture has always been just a stone's throw away from lounge-lizard heaven. With Mimosa, the band gives in to their Velveeta-smooth cheese urges and delivers a quirky collection of far-out covers and retoolings of their own songs.
It's an interesting collection, and works best when they stick to their own material. Reworked originals like "Scooby Snacks" and the excellent "I Can't Get With That" have a great, easy, witty feel not terribly far from the original recordings. Some tracks, like "The Summer Wind," with the surprising guest Ian McCullough, showcase the band's strong live performances. Others are just plain whacked out, like the ultra-wimpy '70s weepers "I'm Not In Love" and "Shining Star" (not the Earth, Wind & Fire song, another one). It seems like they might have taken a miscue from Cake, whose 1996 cover of "I Will Survive" is both hilarious but true to the spunk of the original. These covers lack the irony or campiness needed to make it interesting.