From the title alone, it's clear that Thievery Corporation has more on its mind than just the construction of breezy coffeehouse soundtracks and laid-back global chill. Radio Retaliation is a record of righteous fury (the targets are political, if that even needs to be said) and one that makes their previous efforts sound like Discreet Music in comparison. Thievery amps up their beats, quickens the pace, and unleashes a phalanx of vocal features to attack the D.C.-based Corporation's crosstown rivals on Capitol Hill and at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. (Granted, this is still a revolution mostly in the head.) The mélange of worldbeat influences finds all the usual traces (Jamaica, India, Brazil, Nigeria, Arabia), but virtually all of the locales are charted by natives (Sleepy Wonder, Anoushka Shankar, Seu Jorge, Femi Kuti). On the title track, narcoleptic chatter Sleepy Wonder details his list of grievances, speaking for the entire corporation: "50,000 watts of Thievery hit them like poison darts/And watch the whole system what them build up fall apart." The two most important features are Femi Kuti's and Seu Jorge's; first, Kuti uses the track "Vampires" to call out African genocide throughout history (from Kinshasa to Darfur to Lagos to Malabo, Guinea), then Jorge comes next with the yin to Femi's yang, a beatific ode to peace titled "Hare Krsna." Thievery producers Rob Garza and Eric Hilton haven't quite revolutionized their beat-making or production from the past decade, but they sound energized by the political and social events of the 2000s. Despite the politics, there are still a few more of the ethereal masterpieces Thievery Corporation have made a hallmark in the past, including the sublime "Beautiful Drug" (featuring Slovakian singer Jana Andevska) and "Mandala," a guest feature for Anoushka Shankar that's particularly refreshing as an alternative to the usual Indian atmosphere on downbeat records (sampled, not played). The liner notes are a huge 20" x 30" fold-out booklet, including not only the lyrics but numerous quotes from a variety of world figures -- from Einstein, Chomsky, and Edward Bernays to John Lee Hooker and Mos Def.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by John Bush