With a name that sounds more like a mixed drink than a band, Deep Banana Blackout is often dismissed faster than Bob Dylan’s new moustache.
But after years of toiling in the regional music scene, DBB has developed into an incredibly popular live act over the past two years. They consistently sell out mid-size venues across the country. They have headlined prestigous festivals like the Gathering of the Vibes. Their horn section even traveled with the Allman Brothers Band this summer.
But in the two years since their last record (a time period which saw the departure of lead vocalist Jen Durkin-Kalb), the question became whether DBB could still create any sparks in the studio. However, the band’s latest record, “Feel the Peel,” dispels any doubts about their continued ability to record a strong album.
At first listen, it is easy to pigeonhole DBB as a one-dimensional funk band. Yet, while the Sly and the Family Stone influence is evident, “Feel the Peel” manages to entwine strands of many genres of music. From the salsa feel of “Everybody” to the laid-back Caribbean vibe of “Rocco’s Lament,” DBB allows their funk to be influenced, but never to the point where the album becomes a hodgepodge of half-baked tributes. The band even resurrects the slow jam in “Strong,” a song as good as any on D’Angelo’s or Maxwell’s latest albums.
While DBB offers nothing extraordinary lyrically (a characteristic not uncommon in funk bands), their tight musical arrangements balance this weakness. Though the group has eight members, “Feel the Peel” never feels sonically cluttered. Each person is given his or her own time to play out, points at which the rest of instruments wisely back off.
Particularly captivating is the band’s horn section. This ensemble is easily one of the best in the nation and perhaps the best since the famed Parliament-Funkadelic horns of the ’70s. It is most often used to punctuate the songs with occasional small blasts of color, but when really given the chance to shine in songs like “Five it Up,” the DBB horns are nothing short of phenomenal.
“Feel the Peel” might very well push Deep Banana Blackout into the upper echelon of the recent jam band explosion, with which they are often associated. Regardless, the band has cornered the market for good-time, shake-your-ass funk music.