Garland Jeffreys

Wildlife Dictionary

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Garland Jeffreys' prior album, the brilliant Don't Call Me Buckwheat, slipped under the public radar in America, but Jeffreys got by on a European following and critical acclaim. Even the critics didn't pay attention to the follow-up, and if it weren't for the appearance of "Sexuality" in a Calvin Klein ad campaign, Wildlife Dictionary might have instantly sunk into oblivion. That's a shame because, despite his low profile, Jeffreys remains a unique and provocative talent. Where Don't Call Me Buckwheat is an exploration of race relations, Wildlife Dictionary is all about love and sex. The subject, tried and true as it is, doesn't seem to capture Jeffreys' imagination the way racism once did. His lyrics are less vivid and specific than usual, though he does call the lust object in "Afrodiziak" a "tempest in a B-cup," and "Oceania" is full of intriguing details about "the girl who lives above the cinema." For the most part, however, the tracks (the combination of beats, grooves, riffs, etc.) are the focus of the album, and the tracks are what make it such an odd duck. The slick, meticulous production takes advantage of all the latest bells and whistles, and yet the songs hardly sound contemporary. Nor do they simply mimic the '70s soul that makes its influence felt in the string arrangements and background vocals. This is music impervious to passing trends and, as such, it takes a while to get used to, but listen carefully and there's plenty to enjoy. The reggae toaster who appears out of nowhere on "Original Lust" and the range and control of Jeffrey's singing on "Love Jones" are just two of the pleasures to be found on this smart, carefully crafted album.

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