Michael Franti and Spearhead
The Sound Of Sunshine


2.5
average

Review

by Irving Tan STAFF
October 8th, 2010 | 20 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Sound of Sunshine is, unfortunately, sans-shine.

I’m no soothsayer, but I believe that American reggae singer/songwriter Michael Franti was destined to be a very interesting person and live a very interesting life right from the get-go. For one, almost immediately after he was born, his Irish-German-French mother quickly made an adoption plan for him (now how’s that for starting out in life on the wrong foot?) because she was afraid her family would not accept the child that she had conceived with an African-American and Native American man.

It was thus that he ended up spending most of his childhood under the care of white parents in the predominantly black neighbourhood of Oakland, CA (a particularly prominent experience of his early childhood which would greatly manifest itself later on in Franti's early musical work). Franti is also a vegan, and since the year 2000 has walked though life barefoot – apparently deciding after an experimental three-day shoeless stint that the confines of a rubber sole and a membrane of canvas were vastly inferior to the experience of letting his feet go au naturel. Somewhat less enviably, he also suffered a ruptured appendix last year – an experience which ended up being pretty damn near-fatal.

Thus, I find it to be rather unfortunate that the same degree of interest and intrigue cannot be vested in his latest studio effort, The Sound of Sunshine. Written and produced along with his band Spearhead, the album comes after a relatively brief period of two years since the group’s last release - 2008's All Rebel Rockers. Unfortunately, the album's short gestation period results in it revealing its weaker side a bit faster than was probably intended; this is particularly damaging to the record as it is in many respects painfully devoid of any meaningful innovation or truly spectacular songs - which is frankly a rather damning assessment for a band which has been together some 16 years. Against all artistic sensibility, Franti (and the collective of brains that is Spearhead) somehow chose to revert to a marginally coherent melange of greatly overused folk-rock arrangements and clichéd reggae beats, in the misguided hope that the combination would yield something novel and interesting. In retrospect, they really should have clued in to the fact that the same style has already been used by about a generation's worth of radio-friendly reggae singer-songwriters, and as a result is starting to feel more than a bit tired and worn.

Tellingly, it is on the fast numbers that The Sound of Sunshine starts to well, shine a little, as Franti and the rest of Spearhead produce a few tracks that actually manage to create a numbingly mindless sensation which end up being reasonably effective. In contrast, when the band decides to slow it down and try their hand at trundling through more pensive songs like “Only Thing Missing Was You” or "Anytime You Need Me", the desire to skip to the next track becomes almost carnal; which is a tad ironic, as seeing that Franti is at the moment actually crooning lines like, “I've been waiting all along for a woman like you/To come along and bring the sunshine to my blues/Wake me in the morning with a kiss upon my cheek/ And when we're making love, we make it so unique” in the background. All told, the romantic vibe on The Sound of Sunshine is hit-or-miss at its best, and has all the grace of an elephant trying to stuff itself into a thimble at its worst.

So even though a couple of songs like "Hey Hey Hey" and "Shake It" end up being beach party-worthy, there isn't really much to be had on this album that cannot be found elsewhere. It’s also worth mentioning here that the opening bars and subsequent chord progression of the song “I’ll Be Waiting” sound like they have been lifted directly from U2’s 1984 hit “Bad” (off The Unforgettable Fire). It was perhaps the only remaining thing in the world that could have further dented my appreciation of the album and reggae as a whole, and somehow Franti and Spearhead managed even that.

In short, although there's really nothing criminally wrong with this album, it has to be said that there's nothing virtuously right with it either. I’ll stop short of labeling The Sound of Sunshine an outright disappointment, but will instead note and advise that this one’s for hardcore, intentionally stagnating Franti fans only.

Author's Note: A (greatly condensed) version of this review can also be found in November 2010 issue of The Fulcrum, an Ottawa-based student newspaper (http://www.thefulcrum.ca/system/fulcrum/issues/000/004/793/TheFulcrum-Nov4-10_screen_quality.pdf?1288827072).



Recent reviews by this author
U2 Songs of InnocenceThe Pineapple Thief Magnolia
Ty Segall ManipulatorLinkin Park The Hunting Party
Coldplay Ghost StoriesCaleb McAlpine All Things New
user ratings (10)
Chart.
2.5
average

Comments:Add a Comment 
Gyromania
October 8th 2010


15784 Comments


there isn't really much to be had on this album and that cannot be found elsewhere.

You should remove 'and'. Other than that, this review is so well-written that I wish I could give you two pos' votes. I hope you continue writing.

Digging: Lantlos - .neon

Irving
Staff Reviewer
October 8th 2010


7307 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Erk, that was indeed very awkward. It has since been fixed - thanks Gyro!

Also, you're too kind =)

Digging: U2 - Songs of Innocence

Gyromania
October 8th 2010


15784 Comments


Np man, and honestly you're very articulate and thorough, it's a shame that your reviews don't attract more attention.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
October 8th 2010


7307 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Hahaha, you do make a good point - my visibility on this site is indeed very low (which I think is mostly my fault). For the past few weeks I've started reviewing albums which Sputnik doesn't already have a review on in the hope to attract more constructive criticism. Hopefully viewership will come with time (and more reviews lol!).

Irving
Staff Reviewer
October 8th 2010


7307 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

@ Chambered89: Thanks man. Do let me know if you spot any mistakes/bits worth improving on so I can fix them and improve the piece.

Also, thanks for stopping by!

pizzamachine
October 8th 2010


12571 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Nice review, and since I only know one reggae-ish album, I'll check this out.

Gyromania
October 8th 2010


15784 Comments


For the past few weeks I've started reviewing albums which Sputnik doesn't already have a review on in the hope to attract more constructive criticism. Hopefully viewership will come with time (and more reviews lol!).

Yeah, exactly. However, when reviewing albums that not many people have heard of, you can't expect to get a lot of attention, regardless of your stature on the site, but don't let that discourage you from continuing to review hidden gems, or in this case mediocrity, lol.

pizzamachine
October 8th 2010


12571 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I can also attest to that.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
October 8th 2010


7307 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

@ Pizzamachine: Thanks! And I hope Franti serves you better than he did me! Have fun!

@ Gyro: Ehhhhhh goooooood poiiinnnnnt looooooooooooooooool...perhaps I HAVE been going about it the wrong way haha! That said, I'll still be working on a few more "unreviewed-as-of-yet" pieces in the hope of improving the site's database. Hopefully it'll improve my writing style; I'll worry about getting attention later.

Alternatively, I could do another review for Avenged Sevenfold's Nightmare....

Gyromania
October 8th 2010


15784 Comments


Alternatively, I could do another review for Avenged Sevenfold's Nightmare....

Haha.....Please don't.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
October 8th 2010


7307 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I'll consider your request/plea =p

Gyromania
October 8th 2010


15784 Comments


I say that only because I'd rather not read about them, lol.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
October 8th 2010


7307 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Hahahahah, I was only (half) joking. Be at peace LOL.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
October 8th 2010


7307 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Edited the summary. The old one kinda lacked "umph" lol.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
October 9th 2010


7307 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Random observation: apparently this is the only Michael Franti review on Sputnikmusic.com. I am quite surprised. Thought the man had a bigger following - especially after all the years he's been in the reggae/hip-hop business.

NapalmDe4th
October 9th 2010


54 Comments


I was wondering what was bothering me, and then I realized that there are a few punctuation errors here and there.

For one, almost immediately after he was born his Irish - German - French mother quickly made an adoption plan for him (now how’s that for starting out in life on the wrong foot?) because she was afraid her family would not accept the child that she had conceived with an African-American and Native American man.


I think it should go, "For one, almost immediately after he was born, his Irish-German-French" (note the comma and how there aren't spaces between "Irish", "German" and "French"). I think there's a few others that should be easy to spot if you re-read your review. Also, when you say "well-used folk rock arrangements", do you mean that as a compliment, or is it meant to say "over-used"?

Other than that, pretty good.

NapalmDe4th
October 9th 2010


54 Comments


I was wondering what was bothering me, and then I realized that there are a few punctuation errors here and there.

For one, almost immediately after he was born his Irish - German - French mother quickly made an adoption plan for him (now how’s that for starting out in life on the wrong foot?) because she was afraid her family would not accept the child that she had conceived with an African-American and Native American man.


I think it should go, "For one, almost immediately after he was born, his Irish-German-French" (note the comma and how there aren't spaces between "Irish", "German" and "French"). I think there's a few others that should be easy to spot if you re-read your review. Also, when you say "well-used folk rock arrangements", do you mean that as a compliment, or is it meant to say "over-used"?

Other than that, pretty good.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
October 9th 2010


7307 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

@ Napalm: That was very well-called. I was struggling with that (punctuation) too all throughout this piece. I'll definitely give it another read-through (it's had several doses of comma implantation already) and hopefully that fixes things.

Thanks a lot btw. That was really helpful towards improving this review.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
November 1st 2010


7307 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

If there's anyone out there who has heard this album (or at least the song "Headphones"), do tell me if you can name a song which "Headphones" really sounds like (especially in the intro).

It's been bugging me for hours.

Damn plagiarists!

Irving
Staff Reviewer
November 3rd 2010


7307 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Edited to include a url in which an alternate version of this review can be found (it was published today).



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy