Some new music feels as though it’s been kept in a time capsule: Maybe you hear something on the radio. Maybe you stumble onto an artist while sifting through an iTunes or Amazon web store or the like. Regardless of how it came to you, here you are, listening to a song or an album that transports you to a different time in your life and has you thinking of other music that moved you … and it’s glorious. Or sometimes, what seems new actually has been in a time capsule, and time came to crack it open and make it available to a new generation of listeners. “Golden State of Mind”, the fourth studio release from L.A. Reggae-Dub rockers OPM, is the latter.
This album, you see, first hit the radio waves clear back in 2008.
It seems “Golden State of Mind” never saw a release outside of the U.S., so other than enthusiasts in the band’s back-catalog—or those who’ve likewise discovered it online or through mp3/mp4 music providers over these past several years—it’s quite likely that this material is completely unknown to European audiences. Fed further by having recently branched out into an independent label, MNO Records, this led OPM to set and perform a string of tour dates across the UK beginning early May 2013 and concluding June 22nd in Germany. The only aesthetic change made to the album, other than some possible re-mastering, is the inclusion of “Everything’s the Same in L.A.”, a catchy-but-none-too-original, hip-hop-infused pop number with sights almost-certainly set on radio abroad.
I admit that I completed my first listen to the disc before I was aware of the backstory, and learning of it afterward left me more than a bit disappointed.
The lyrical content is a mish-mish of Jamaican Dance and Ska’s universal themes: party time, skepticism and social commentary, unity through music, and recreational narcotic experimentation to break down personal boundaries. Very much standard fare, though the musicianship vocally and instrumentally is excellent, tight and precise with as much confidence and swagger—laid-back or otherwise—as one might expect from a reggae group.
Couple that with the addition of guest musicians on most tracks (Johnny Richter of Kottonmouth Kings and former-OPM-rapper-returned Bryan ‘Big B’ Mahoney among the roster), and my ears felt for a way to describe the distinctive stylings that they encountered. Like the songs’ subject matter, I was reminded not so much of specific groups or styles as I was amalgamations of these. “Feel The Vibration”, the initial track, felt like The Urge and Beck had had a public pow-wow. Sugar Ray met Maroon 5 on “Family and Friends”. Track eight, “Dub Op”, evoked moments of Sublime, Cypress Hill, and Stevie Wonder. “Watching the Detectives” was seemingly called forth from a long-lost collaboration between Bob Marley and Elvis Costello.
It didn’t stop there. Several songs, most of them clustered toward the back end of the album, are up-tempo thrash-punk romps reminiscent of Rancid, early Green Day, Iggy Pop, and even some of the beefier Rolling Stones jaunts. While it was definitely sonically experimental, out there compared to most of what I’d heard from OPM, I wasn’t a fan of this, as it was too jarring toward the effort’s vibes and continuity otherwise. The punk material felt half-hearted despite a sincere go at it. Who knows? Maybe there was a need within the band back in ’08 to create a back-door alternative in case the then-fading reggae-rock mainstream crumbled around them. I digress….
There’s excitement, variety, and motion inherent in the music present on “Golden State of Mind”. Experiencing it, I just wanted to move, and it worked without my awareness of it. My head bobbed a few times. Feet tapped and fingers snapped. It’s good for what it was. Still, that seems mostly in vain as I reminded myself that, while new to my ears, it wasn’t new—just new again for the sake of a band’s second chance at exposure.
Call me a prima donna, but is there a statute of limitations on this? Maybe there should be.
The moniker given to OPM’s European tour, on the last toes of its last leg at the time of this writing, is Lucky 13, so named for the celebration of thirteen years since the band’s inception. With five years having passed since any new material was written—save the aforementioned “Everything’s the Same in L.A.”—and numerous line-up changes since the release of “Golden State of Mind”, I can’t help wondering if perhaps the tour should have been called Convenient 13. Spinal Tap, all but scattered to the metal wind at the denouement of their eponymous film, reformed not because of merit or having something more to say. They got big in Japan.
They may’ve done better to have fresher offerings than those aged for half a decade, but all the same, maybe the pseudo-re-issue of “Golden State of Mind” and the tour turn-out in Europe will do more for OPM than it did for David St. Hubbins, Derek Smalls, and Nigel Tufnel….