Raw energy fails to mask musical rut
Published 22/02/2010 | 05:00
In 1997, the unsigned Asian Dub Foundation went on tour with Primal Scream after Bobby Gillespie dubbed them the best live band in Britain. They've since written a dub punk opera about Colonel Gadaffi and re-scored 'La Haine' and 'The Battle of Algiers' in an enduring career that has combined music and activism.
While they remain a thrilling example of a community music project realising its full potential, the collective appears to be stuck in a self-styled generic rut. Punk, drum 'n' bass, dancehall and reggae all inform the mix, but rarely sparkle.
They're the last band on earth you could fault for lack of trying, as they possess a blistering and infectious raw energy that rubs off on a enthusiastic crowd.
Three MCs give their all and the drumming is highly impressive.
Paradoxically, they were more exciting when they had a sole frontman in former member Deeder Zaman. The guitar sound is a bit stodgy, which is a pity, as they boast an excellent guitarist in Chandrasonic.
Their signature song remains 'Free Saptal Ram', a stirring piece of agit pop written about a Birmingham Asian wrongfully convicted of murder.
Strictly speaking, it should be as redundant as 'Free Nelson Mandela' by the Special AKA, as Saptal Ram was released in 2002, but it's still a fine, if dated, protest song. The lack of progression since this career highlight is telling.