Bargain Music

Cook the Beans

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Something very revealing happens on "Murderer," one of the tracks on Bargain Music's Cook the Beans. Introducing the rock-reggae tune in a faux-redneck voice, lead singer Josh Fischel mentions reggae star Buju Banton as well as some characters from The Dukes of Hazzard. Fischel is being goofy -- this band definitely has a sense of humor -- but he's also telling you a lot about his musical outlook. He's letting you know how eclectic his tastes are, and the word eclectic easily describes Cook the Beans (which contains both live and studio material and was released by the Washington, D.C.-based Beatville label in 2000). During the course of the album, these Southern California alterna-rockers incorporate everything from reggae (an especially prominent influence), soul, funk, jazz, and hip-hop to alternative country. "Blow 4 Blow" is especially hip-hop-minded, while the band's love of reggae asserts itself on "Murderer," "Dub Fucking Mad," and an unlikely cover of "Movin' on Up" (the theme song from the '70s sitcom The Jeffersons). Country isn't as strong an influence as reggae, soul, and funk, but alternative country/No Depression elements do surface on occasion -- and in Fischel's mind, linking country with Jamaican and African-American music makes perfect sense because he sees all of these styles as examples of music that was created by the poor and the working-class. Not that Bargain Music is a band with a heavy sociopolitical agenda. "Murderer" has some serious-minded lyrics, but most of the time Bargain Music's lyrics are about quirky humor -- not fighting the power or trying to save the world. At times, Fischel and his colleagues can be self-indulgent (both musically and lyrically), but overall their creativity serves them well on Cook the Beans.

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