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Published: 2002/02/20
by Michael Lello

Slactivism – Granola Funk Express

Akashic Records 33870
Sure, much of Granola Funk Express’ sixth album, Slactivism, is
derivative. But there’s enough uniqueness hear to make this a refreshing,
enjoyable album.
The style du jour here his hipster white-boy rap/funk, rekindling
elements of G. Love and Special Sauce, Beck and Cake. But the arrangements
are tight and funky enough to draw in the jamband fans without alienating
followers of the previously mentioned groups. Unfortunately for GRE, the
fickle music industry seems to have had its fill of bands of its ilk and is
only interested in furthering the careers of rap/rock bands with phony angst
and screaming front men.
Fortunately for GRE, and the listener, their music is much more
sophisticated and fun than that.
An ohm chant, appropriately titled "Ohm" kicks things off before "Party
Rockin’" gets things going in full effect. As is the case throughout the
whole disc, vocals are shared by a cast of characters. Here, it’s Cactus,
Foul Mouth Jerk and H. Brycon. Eric Usher’s drums are key – as they are in
any funk band – and he and bassist Cricket keep things funking hard all 18
tracks long. On "Rockin,’" GRE announces it’s on the scene, and like most
rap/rock groups there’s some lame chest-pounding similies – "I make ya feel
good like a high-powered shower" – and cliched cultural references, like a
mention of Richard Simmons. But Josh Blake’s guitar in the chorus is just
smooth enough to make the song tolerable, and will make you think of early
311 at its best.

Oh yeah, and they throw in some weed references for good measure on
"Rockin’." Yawn.

Next up is "... this thing of ours," a clever and seemingly unlikely
reference to the Cosa Nostra wing of the Mafia, made famous in the
Godfather films. A trilled mandolin-like guitar line and beautifully
delivered female chorus complete with some Italian lyrics make the track
much more than a mere novelty. To GRE’s credit, the ballad doesn’t sound out
of place among the funkier songs its bordered by. But the cliches are still
here — "smoke weed", we are told, is something they like to do. Great. "Natural Law" is an introspective number filled with socially conscious
lyrics like "Gotta take control, gotta make your own decisions" and "Save
the earth y’all, we’ve got corporations selling it off at a discounted
cost." Uh, if you say so. Again, the music is strong, especially Blake’s
slippery playing, but these lyrics seem more fitting for the California
Dreams (you know, that lame band in the show of the same title that used to
be on Saturday mornings after "Saved By The Bell.")
"Crush Sleep" uses some creative sampling and sax-like keyboards to create a
spooky, cinematic feel. Blake, who also doubles as the keyboardist, does a
nice job of adding sounds like flutes and saxes throughout the disc.

But by now, the lyrical act is a worn thing. If GRE is making a
tongue-in-cheek attempt at being "street," than I apologize because the
gangsta act is lost on me. If they legitimately think they are living the
thug life, then more power to them.
Again, Slactivism is a diverse and unique album, embracing many
styles and bringing some hip-hop flair to the jam scene. If you can get past
the lyrics, you’re in for an enjoyable listen from start to finish. Or, you
may love the lyrics. Then feel free to throw your hands in the air. And
don’t forget to wave them around like you just don’t care.

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