Review Summary: While it may not be Fluent, Stroll is still an excellent release in Big D's pioneering genre.
The biggest issue I initially had with Stroll
was that it didn't wholly play into my expectations of another "stroll" release from Big D and the Kids Table. For those unaware, "stroll" is a ska subgenre Big D pioneered on 2009's outstanding and appropriately titled Fluent in Stroll
. The sounds of Fluent in Stroll
take a more relaxed approach to upbeat ska, shaking off punk influence to favor surf rock, swing, and lounge contributions. The sound was rounded out by a section of female vocalists (known as the "Doped Up Dollies") who complimented primary Big D vocalist David McWane with an assortment of playground rhymes old and new ramped-up to meet the laid back yet high energy sound of the album.
But no, Stroll
doesn't exactly duplicate the sound of it's true predecessor and it doesn't carry out the legacy of the "stroll" subgenre in a linear fashion. There's a little too much reggae influence scattered through the album ("Put It In a Song" and "Trust In Music" being the chiefest offenders) that doesn't really fit with the previous mold or the one cast by the rest of the album. The random scattering of these tracks hampers the album by disrupting its otherwise fluid stroll and can be jarring enough on the first few listens to make you worry about the overall quality of the music.
proves itself to be an unconventional grower of an album - mostly because rather than providing tracks which require thoughtful aural digestion, it offers a platter consisting mostly of immediately satisfying tracks presented with some garbage as garnish. While the majority of the course is a treat, taking the time to toss away the garbage is a chore. But it's a chore that proves worthwhile.
Some of the best and most crucial parts of Fluent
make a triumphant return on Stroll
, most notably the powerhouse performances and prominence of the Doped Up Dollies and their incredibly catchy lyrics. From the fast and fluid "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I thought you knew karate" of "Young Suckers" to the swinging "rough and tough Boston boy" serenade of "What I Got," the Doped Up Dollies are on point as the best addition Big D have ever made to their sound. Without these ladies, "stroll" would exist as neither subgenre nor album.
also brings back the childlike rhyming and onomatopoetic relief, replete with hand clapping and hip-swaying grooves on tracks like "Spit that Champagne Out." This is a relief, considering the bleak disaster that was For the Damned, the Dumb, and the Delirious
, which raised some serious questions about the group's direction (and perhaps causing the split that provides us with both Stroll
this year). Nonetheless, it's a pleasure to hear that the group can still capture the wonder present since Strictly Rude
's "Shining On" and if the price for that is a few misplaced reggae experiments, it's a fair price to pay.
While it's not a perfect album from start to finish and while it may not quite measure up to Big D's last "stroll" release, Stroll
finds Big D playing around at the top of their game. And for successes like the dark, Latin inspired opener "Knife" or the spacey reggae incorporations of "Our First Day" (not to mention the more "typical" stroll tracks of the album), it's well worth the growing pains and patient listening.