Fear of a Brown Planet (Fat Beats)
Reviewed by Thomas Fawcett, Fri., June 22, 2018
Creating some space from the Black Sabbath project that yielded two full albums and national acclaim, Brownout declared themselves Over the Covers on last year's EP. So much for that idea, and thank goodness. As with New York's El Michels Affair putting an experimental soul spin on Wu-Tang Clan bangers, the locals return with Fear of a Brown Planet, mining the politically charged catalog of Public Enemy. Interpreting hip-hop instrumentally remains nothing new for Brownout given that the homegrown ninepiece has backed GZA live and sprinkled into its own sets the Geto Boys' "Mind Playing Tricks on Me," straight flip of an Isaac Hayes original. Likewise, P.E. crafted densely layered collages borrowing bits from James Brown, Funkadelic, Earth, Wind & Fire, Kool & the Gang, and Mandrill, an Afro-Latin funk-rock outfit that might as well be Brownout's blueprint. The Grupo Fantasma spin-off, long known for underpinning vintage funk with a boom bap aesthetic, is thus expert at reworking Chuck and Flav with big brass, bordertown bravado, and psychedelic flourishes. Dance floor screamers abound ("Louder Than a Bomb," "Don't Believe the Hype"), but further afield interpretations ("My Uzi Weighs a Ton," "I Don't Wanna Be Called Yo Ni**a") carry a sinister edge that surprise at every turn. As long as they're not over the covers, how 'bout a sequel?