It's an interesting irony that as Ziggy Marley's singing voice ages and becomes more and more similar to that of his late father, the music he makes gets more and more distant from the reggae mainstream. And on his first album without the Melody Makers, his explorations go even further afield, leading him to spend far more time with hip-hop beats and spare rock & roll than one-drop reggae grooves. This is all to the good, or would be, if Marley showed that he can craft melodies and lyrics as well on his own as he did with his band. Unfortunately, he finds himself melodically adrift on Dragonfly. There are plenty of great beats and well-crafted instrumental textures (thanks in part to such high-profile guest musicians as Flea, David Lindley, and DJ Chris Kilmore), but the album offers not a single memorable tune, though "Looking," with its lilting highlife guitars, comes close. Lyrically, the album is an embarrassment. Almost every song is an exercise in bathetic platitude: "Do what you feel and don't you fool yourself," "I can't make you happy unless I am," "I've got to be true to myself," etc., and those lines are all from a single song. On the topic of conflict in the Middle East, he opines that "the only answer is to live as one," which Israelis and Palestinians alike may be forgiven for regarding as less than entirely helpful; the same goes for his observation that "what divides us is an illusion." Faced with this sort of nonsense, it's hard not to wonder why so many pop singers feel the need to comment on political and social issues about which they obviously know little or nothing. It's a question that would have been easier to avoid if the music were more compelling.
by Rick Anderson