Horace X


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Horace X's hyper-eclectic mixture of dancehall, Celtic, and other styles isn't quite as vivid on Strategy as it was on their previous album, Sackbutt. The musical potpourri seems a bit less distinctive and the individual songs don't stand out as much, partly because of the increased reliance on programmed rhythms and other electronic elements. Nonetheless, this is a fun, danceable album by a tight band. The reggae influence is evident from the opening track, "First Love," as is the juxtaposition of Simon Twitchin's ragga style vocals with Hazel Faibairn's fiddling, which is particularly vital on the album's title track. Meanwhile, the other bandmembers, including Pete Newman on various clarinets and saxophones, do a fine job on this album. Guest musician Mike McGoldrick adds some Eastern European flavor with the low whistle on "She Want," Steve Lockwood plays harmonica on a few tracks, and Tom Harding contributes didgeridoo and tabla to the multicultural stew. The lyrics are mostly unremarkable; for example, they describe love as "a universal language spoken throughout de world/understood by every boy an understood by every girl" on "First Love," and the social commentary of "Puppet Show" says little beyond noting that the media spews out propaganda. Of course, the main focus of this album isn't on the lyrics. Indeed, "A Time for Valerie" and "How Far?" are both instrumentals, "Humanity" is an instrumental remix of "Strategy," and "Skin" features mildly amusing vocal samples that eventually wear out their welcome, although the band itself holds up better.

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