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Album Review: Slightly Stoopid's 'Meanwhile... Back at the Lab'

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Originally signed to Sublime frontman Brad Nowell’s Skunk Records label while the band’s two founders were still in high school, Slightly Stoopid have maintained a genuine affection for an eclectic range of musical styles. The Ocean Beach, Calif. combo’s expansive palate fuses reggae, folk, funk, punk and metal into one giant melting pot. Led by stony schoolyard pals Kyle McDonald and Miles Doughty, they gained a substantial foothold with their self-titled 1996 debut, and frequent touring.

Over the course of eight solid studio albums, Slightly Stoopid have become a reliable purveyor of socially conscious proclamations, mystic revelations and cheeky derivations. In a casual manner not far removed from Nowell’s best studio work with Sublime, McDonald and Doughty relay genuine concerns with warmth and wit. At one end of the spectrum, Stoopid revisit reggae’s finest guiding lights; on the other end, they craft beautifully restrained folk-rock vignettes. And with a twisted cornucopia of weed-friendly numbers like “I’m So Stoned,” “Just a Buzz,” “2am” and “Sensimilla” already in their catalog (along with their hilariously titled 2007 LP, Chronchitis), their spirit and passion for ganja has remained a constant muse. 

While 2012’s Top of the World represented a major national breakout (cracking Billboard’s Top 20), Slightly Stoopid continue to refine their delicious musical stew on the newly released Meanwhile… Back at the Lab (Stoopid Records). Whether daydreaming about “summertime music and my seed, Mary Jane,” or letting everyone know they’re “smoking our trees,” Stoopid not only praise the good herb, but also cautiously seek political enlightenment and personal security. And when they feel like it, the bohemian messengers can deliver a sassy, soulful instrumental like the album’s appropriately titled opening salvo, “Dabbington,” where spurted trumpet, trombone and saxophone riffs neatly recall ’80s ska band Madness. To listen to "Dabbington," click "Play Audio" button above.

Slightly Stoopid not only praise the good herb, but also cautiously seek political enlightenment and personal security.

Even though a majority of the tracks lean toward reggae, the tempo, mood and dynamics constantly shift. Flawless Jamaican riddims underlie the steady percussive groove of “This Version,” a nifty dub-styled Black Uhuru send-up, and the similarly derived “Come Around” (not to be confused with the Collie Buddz herb anthem). Barrington Levy’s influence is felt on the simmering, horn-punctuated “Guns in Paradise.” And the lively “Hold It Down” owes a debt to the English Beat’s peppy ska classic “Ranking Full Stop.”

Perhaps the most enticing number, “The Prophet” retains a mellow acoustic groove and sedate, half-spoken vocal delivery similar to rapper Everlast’s “What It’s Like.” A classic folk love song, “One Bright Day” (featuring sultry songstress Angela Hunt), and a gentle, reflective ballad, “What Your Friends Say,” tug on listeners’ heartstrings.

For a complete change of pace halfway through, the band’s easygoing restraint gets upended by the fiercely rambunctious hardcore blaster “Fuck You,” a loud and angry manifesto featuring guest vocalist Beardo’s vindictively paranoiac screams and shouts. That corrosive slammer is followed by the jazz-funk contemplation “Time Won’t Wait,” and the slow beat of harmonica-infused blues-rocker “Rolling Stone.”

Combining Jimi Hendrix’s signature “Castles Made of Sand” guitar lattice with Jerry Garcia’s “Sugar Magnolia” riffage, the easygoing “Life Rolls On” cops the compositional structure of The Band’s classic “I Shall Be Released”; its homage-like eclecticism reinforces Stoopid’s pleasurable resourcefulness. Though it deals with remorse and loss, “Life,” like many of the band’s songs, offers a glimmer of hope behind the sadness.

Within the established idioms explored on Meanwhile and their preceding albums, Slightly Stoopid prove  capable of stirring up some highly melodic fare.

Slightly Stoopid's "Everything Is Awesome" summer tour with Dirty Heads kicks off on July 8. Check the tour dates here.

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John Fortunato

John Fortunato

Longtime music critic with a special interest in beer, based in New Jersey. Check out his website beermelodies.com.