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You could accuse Culture of making the same album over and over again, and you'd be more right than wrong. But you'd also be missing the point. Remember, this is reggae: a style of music that places far more emphasis on depth of groove than on originality. Sure, it all sounds the same, but so do Bach cantatas; this doesn't make them any less great. That said, Culture albums do tend to sound even more similar than most reggae (only Burning Spear can boast a more, ah, consistent style), so Payday comes as something of a surprise. Produced by Clive Hunt instead of bandleader Joseph Hill, this album sounds slicker than the usual, and there are some moments of positively rockish intensity: "War in Sierra Leone" chugs along on a rockers beat straight out of middle-period Sly and Robbie, and the rather bizarre "Chicken Titty" feels more like soca than reggae. Yet even with aggressive drumming and occasional metal-inflected guitars, this is still an immediately recognizable Culture joint: The usual ganja anthems ("Legalization"), warnings to bourgeois Babylon ("Where the Tree Falls"), and populist pronouncements ("Payday," "Share the Riches") are couched in the usual catchy melodies and delivered in Hill's inimitable growl. Recommended.

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