Only three studio releases in a career that stretches back nearly 20 years doesn't indicate a band with a lot of initiative. But Brooklyn's Lettuce collective aren't a full-time project and seem to have saved their energy and creativity for this terrific, longish 70-minute set. It's firmly in their tradition of old-school funk, but here they have tightened and expanded their approach, recording an album that shifts from one highlight to the next without stylistically repeating themselves, an anomaly in the genre. From the grinding hard rock, horn-enhanced riff of the appropriately named "The Crusher," to the reggae and dub effects on the opening title track, the hard groove go-go of "Let It Gogo," and the Crusaders-styled jazz of the closing "Double Header," Lettuce keep the vibe tight and funky in a variety of styles. The primarily instrumental set's only cover is a workout on War's "Slipping Into Darkness," which gave frontman/drummer Adam Deitch a chance to co-write nine of the disc's 13 tracks. The seven-piece group's most recognizable names are keyboardist Neal Evans and guitarist Eric "Kraz" Krasno, both on loan from their full-time gig in Soulive. Krasno in particular cuts loose on the Zigaboo Modeliste tribute "Ziggawatt" and delivers a psychedelic kick on the driving "Jack Flask." But these players, even with occasional guests, work as a well-oiled team. They create a taut, hard rubber vibe that takes old '70s funk principals of staying in the pocket and pound out contemporary, danceable music that borrows from retro-jazz/funk/R&B/blaxploitation soundtrack influences but is never beholden to them. The Average White Band is also a touch point, especially on the handclap-driven "Do It Like You Do," the disc's only vocal. Horn arrangements such as the staccato attack on "Madison Square" are imaginative and dynamic, which brings even more sizzle to an already heated sound. The typical song length of five minutes is just long enough to set the mood, feature a solo, then move to the next track, which then repeats the process, keeping the album vibrant and capping the extended jams that tend to derail funk. This band gets it right throughout, creating riveting, razor-edged rhythmic music that's challenging and inspired both on and off the dancefloor. Here's hoping they get more prolific.
AllMusic Review by Hal Horowitz