The Budos Band

The Budos Band III

(Daptone; 2010)

By David M. Goldstein | 16 August 2010

The Budos Band are an entirely instrumental group fluctuating between ten and thirteen members on any given day. But onstage, at least, baritone sax player Jared Tankel plays the de facto frontman by frequently addressing the audience in between songs. And homeboy drops F-bombs to such excess (e.g. “our new fucking record has a big motherfucking cobra on it!”) that one gets the impression that he’s either a) purposely performing a send up of unbridled rock and roll machismo, or b) just really, really stoked to be a member of the Budos Band.

The latter seems more likely, if only because the brothers Budos are on a serious roll right now. They’ve just released their third and most confident album to date, and might even be threatening to eclipse Sharon Jones & the Dapkings as Daptone’s most reliable go-to for retro soul awesomeness. (The two bands share members; it’s a friendly competition). The safest description of their self-categorized “Afro-soul” is to call them the soundtrack to a blaxploitation film crossed with Fela’s brand of Afro-beat—and there is nothing wrong with that. Both of these things are universally accepted as awesome, and the Budos Band are wise not to mess with the winning formula that drove the previous two (excellent) albums: oodles of Latin percussion driven by fiendish bass lines and a tremendously tight horn section. They don’t attempt to add vocals or electronics, and their beards are not worn in the name of throwback Americana. They are very aware of their strengths, and play to them.

To their credit, they also don’t make you wait for the goods. After a vaguely Steve Miller Band-ish blast of farfisa organ, “Rite of the Ancients” immediately deposits the listener into the thick of a high speed car chase through ghetto streets, driven by a fiercely pulsating guitar line and lead trumpet melody that will lodge in your skull for weeks. “Black Venom” maintains this intensity via an ominous, four note descending bass motif that runs throughout the song, and a phenomenal opening trifecta is rounded out by “River Serpentine.” This one is less cop-movie and more soul ballad, akin to the soundtrack from the original Rocky, or like something from comparatively mellow Daptone label mates Menahan Street Band.

The majority of Budos Band songs keep to a time-honored formula: a solitary guitar line kicks things off, followed by the percussion section, and then the horns carry the melody and proceed to level everything within a city block. But both the tempos and levels of spookiness are varied enough to keep things interesting, and on “Raja Haje” it even sounds like the guitar and drums are operating in two entirely different time signatures (nice false ending, too). Unlike on Budos Band II_(2007), there’s no noticeable drop off in quality between the first and second halves of the album, and _III even gives a closing glimpse at the band’s sense of humor on the mysteriously titled “Reppirt Yad,” a very stoned cover that sounds like it was unearthed from the ganja-charred remains of Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Black Ark Studio.

Like every act on their parent label, the Budos Band aren’t so much breaking new ground as simply playing the hell out of their chosen genre. They know they’re at the top of their game, and have no qualms about flaunting it. They’ve rapidly become the standard bearers for the funkiest of instrumental soul, and III suggests they could keep doing this thing for several albums before it even begins to approach boring. We should all be as similarly stoked.