Foreign Exchange

Such Is Life

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Foreign Exchange is an American reggae band led by singer Paul Tulloch and his bass-playing brother Peter, both expatriate Jamaicans who have worked in other groups and as dance music producers. Such Is Life is their second album, and it works a groove that lies somewhere between the standard-issue modern roots sound of Luciano and the more eclectic, rockish inflections of, say, the Wailing Souls; while the band's rhythms are mostly regulation one-drop, the dancehall is never too far away, and there are even hints of hip-hop and jungle. This would be a winning combination if it weren't for two rather significant problems: Paul Tulloch's severe limitations as a singer and the pair's consistent inability to write compelling songs. The lyrics, for one thing, are worse than banal -- the Tullochs' cookie-cutter denunciations of Babylon, racism, money, colonial education and even of nursery rhymes have all been issued a million times before by a thousand other reggae bands. But the lyrics wouldn't be a problem if they came clothed in interesting music sung well; unfortunately, Paul Tulloch's voice isn't up to the demands he places on it (the results are especially embarrassing on "Dream," an otherwise touching paean to Jah), and though Peter is a fine bass player, there just aren't any really solid grooves on this album for him to latch onto.

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