Various Artists

Generation Media Tropical, Vol. 1

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Génération Média Tropical appears to be a survey of post-Kassav' generation French Antilles pop, blending a fair number of big names with some newcomers and ranging through zouk to Haitian compas and touching most bases in between. There are African artists too (Koffi Olomide and probably Petit Makambo), but the disc doesn't paint a pretty portrait of this musical generation. It's got nothing to do with any root purist whine about too many synthesizers and layers of hi-tech polish in the arrangements -- it's about way too many pop dreck ballads. It's not about yearning for familiar, traditional rhythms when...well, it was nice to hear the female vocalist for Kadan's soar on one verse like Jocelyn Beroard reincarnated or the old-school percussion and flute in Dédé St. Prix and Tanya St. Val's track. But no one here sounds like they're even trying to get ecstatic like Kassav' and company could do -- the music is so distressingly polite and innocuous. It leads you to latch on to anything that sounds different, be it the salsa piano riff and flamboyant solo amid the overkill strings and clutter of a bad Edith Lefel track or the synth bass-walking '50s R&B style in Trio Bad's pretty bizarre stab at ragga/dancehall/hip-hop. On the positive tip, Metal Sound goes ragamuffin effectively, with strong vocal flow cutting against the rhythm, and Petit Makambo's drums powerdrive through the irresistible "African Typic Collection" and segue into a pretty killer soukous rave-up. Jean-Michel Rotin does a punchy take on early solo career Michael Jackson with some nicely conceived and crisply executed R&B ballad elements. Francky Vincent's heavy synth sound quavers and bass drum thump generate a good go-go dance French Antilles pop groove and Claudy Siar faintly echos the sweep of a Kassav' zouk rhythm, if not its force. The songs on Génération Média Tropical are all well-crafted, but the problem is lack of inspiration more than professional execution. The valleys way outnumber the peaks and the latter don't rise high enough to make you want to check out the individual artists.