July 9, 2009

Extra Golden
Thank You Very Quickly

Washington, D.C./Nairobi, Kenya 
Recorded in Washington, D.C. | Mixed by Jonathan Kreinik and Nikhil Ranade

Washington, D.C.-based fusionfunksters Extra Golden’s first studio release in two years is a joyous, boisterous celebration, the embodiment of a hippie who whirls around a little too fast at a festival and falls over himself in a giggling heap. Thank You Very Quickly displays the band’s signature blend of American and Kenyan musical styles. The album is punctuated by classic rock guitar breaks that prevent Extra Golden from veering into uncontrolled jam-band territory, and the clean, rich production work of Jonathan Kreinik and Nikhil Ranade adds polish to a sound that throbs with spontaneity. The band’s natural disposition to long-form exploration complements the album’s length: with only six tracks and clocking in at under 40 minutes, Extra Golden is free to take a long walk through its chosen themes.

Thank You Very Quickly marks a new chapter in the band’s songwriting. Time and again, this album’s songs begin in one direction, then rapidly pivot to a different feel. The second track, “Fantasies of the Orient,” exemplifies the pattern: safe, strummy guitars lull us into a false sense that we know where the song’s going, only to have drums fall in behind a driving vocal part. “Fantasies of the Orient” also displays Extra Golden’s increasingly sophisticated storytelling ability, and the track suggests that the band might have finally found a way to reconcile and marry disparate aspects of Western and African lyrical traditions. Take one part story-accessible-to-Western-audiences, add non-linear storytelling, sprinkle liberally with tried-and-true rock conventions, and place in oven pre-heated to 420 degrees for 35 minutes; pairs well with a fruity sauvignon blanc, serves eight.

It’s difficult to say where this album peaks – five of the six tracks are daring, imaginative, and just as fun to listen to the 10th time as the first. But the album’s least inspired effort is certainly its last, the eponymous “Thank You Very Quickly.” The song starts off with a Kenyan-inspired electric guitar part that seems to have all the energy needed for the album’s final 6:46, but a ponderous vocal line creates a weight the airy drums and happy-go-lucky guitar can’t bear; the result feels like something left on Dave Matthews’ cutting room floor.

Aside from the last song, however, Thank You Very Quickly is an uplifting, ecstatic romp, a romantic comedy starring Classic Rock and Kenyan Benga. “Pine Yore Yore” makes outstanding use of call-and-response structure, while freeing up the rhythm section to explore the song’s funk roots, and the spacey “Ukimwi” provides a welcome down-tempo change of pace. The album is imbued with a laid-back sense of ease and the chaotic bliss of an outdoor festival, and Extra Golden’s admixture of dense African polyrhythms and straight-ahead rock serves as a bridge for fans who might otherwise overlook a new genre. (Thrill Jockey)
-Dan Weber

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