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Published: 2002/04/22
by Michael Lello

Sophista Funk – The Bomb Squad


Jen Durkin, the former Deep Banana Blackout singer leads the tight, funky outfit of The
Bomb Squad on their debut release. And while the squeaky-clean production
and airtight arrangements sometimes make the group sound like a wedding band – albeit, a talented one – the results are mostly favorable.

First and foremost, Durkin knows how to be sexy, and her smoldering vocals
are the perfect pairing with the funky offerings of the Squad, which
includes current and former members of DBB, Schleigho, Fatbag, Kudu, Actual
Proof and EMCQ. "Ready to Ride" kicks things off with a hip-hop drum beat
and smooth sax and organ lines. The track is an invitation to party, and is
a suitable introduction to the disc. Despite most of the players' jamband
pedigree, the playing throughout the disc never wanders and is always in the
pocket. The longest track is only six minutes long. That, combined with
simple arrangements and uplifting lyrics, make it a great party album.

"True Thing" finds TBS funking it old-school, with a Bootsy Collins-esque bassline. The lyrics here are of the throw-away variety, but it doesn't matter. Durkin's soulful voice trickles between the horns and sounds remarkably like a young Gloria Estefan in her Miami Sound Machine days. On this track, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And that's pretty impressive considering this is a 10-piece band.

"Hey Good Lookin" is a fine example of what can be accomplished when a band
known for its live shows steps it up in the studio. The song, guitarist Ian
McHugh's tale of scoping out a fine babe, is given new life through the lens
of Durkin's voice. In the background, bargoers chat and clink glasses,
further painting the picture the lyrics shoot for. The music, meanwhile, is
sensible, intelligent, well-polished funk, along the lines of Average White
Band or Earth, Wind & Fire.

"Gemini" may be the funkiest track on the collection. I've never seen the
Squad live, but imagine this tune has the potential to be the centerpiece of
a set, with its tight, thick guitar, fluid bass and raging drums. The horn
section, as it does all through the disc, soars. "What You See" continues in
that vein and is the closest thing to disco on the album.

"Wherever You Are" has a solid Latin groove and is particularly
dance-inspiring. "Find Another Love" closes the nine-song set in fine
fashion, slowing things down. The lyrics here are a bit sappy, but belted
out with soul nonetheless.

Before that finale, "Sophistafunk" finds Durkin crowing "I'm gonna grow some
funk of my own." Young lady, you already have. And if this album is any
indication of what Durkin can achieve in her post-Deep Banana Blackout
career, the future looks bright. And, of course, funky.

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