The National Trust

Kings and Queens

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A much more elaborate and slicker production than 2002's Dekkagar, the National Trust's second album involves a supporting cast numbering in the thirties. The help includes session bassist Charles Hosch (the Emotions, Teddy Pendergrass), engineer Abel Garabaldi (R. Kelly, Ciara), and an eight-piece horn section called Hypnotic (all members are the offspring of AACM co-founder and early Sun Ra Arkestra vet Phil Cohran). So, if the National Trust's Mark Henning and Neil Rosario wanted some more credibility, they were successful at getting it -- the press material for this album went so far as to mention the impressive background of the gent who did the mastering. While it's made clear that Henning and Rosario share deep affections for contemporary dance music, R&B from disco to the present, and even the song-oriented end of broken beat, their material often strikes an awkward collision between natural indie rock sensibilities and forced soul moves, and there are moments when you can't tell if they're Ween-ing it ("We smoke like Billy Ocean's inside me/My Caribbean queen") or if they've slid into full-blown mockery. The persistent use of upper-register vocals, flicking guitars, and layered hand percussion can cloy and grate. They are trying very hard to be a specific thing, realize that they can't quite take it all the way, and add the occasional coating of camp in order to look less silly. In other words, the album might be right up Kevin Federline's alley.

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