It’s a bad sign when a band’s debut album is torn in two directions. It tells the listener that the group doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. Afrobeta‘s debut, Under the Streets, does not work well for two reasons. The first one is that the disc is split between traditional dance-pop tunes and experimental grooves. But secondly, and what’s worse, is that that everything sounds mailed-in.
Each one of these wanna-be club anthems brings nothing new to the table. They’re full of rhythms we’ve heard a thousand times before, by hundreds of different DJs and bands. Opener “Two Different Worlds” sounds as formulaic as an average techno tune: Open with a groove-laden beat that’s interspersed with down-tune warps, and then throw in a slowed-down synth bridge with vocals about partying, here supplied by Cuci. While that first song can claim to be competent but commonplace, many other tracks fail to reach even that level. “Do You Party?” features a further lethargic performance from Cuci, while “Nighttime” wastes a ballooning, funky bass with a sleepy synth pattern.
Once the second half of the album arrives, everything turns for the better. “Pistol Whip” combines squiggly, alien sounds with an industrial drumbeat, paving the way for Cuci’s cut-up vocals and some shredding guitar work. If you stripped away the vocals and digital effects, it’s easy to imagine a punk band ripping through this energetic track. “Love Fur Life” kicks off with rapid acoustic strumming that continues through, even as electronic elements pile on.
Everything ends with “The Love is Magic”, a titillating experiment that moves between mellow, acoustic verses, and a doubled tempo in the chorus. The shifts dont exactly work, but its a nice case of trial and error. True, its more error than trial, but lots of experiments are at first. This is the crossroads Afrobeta is at. They can either continue down the path of generic dance beats, or they can keep discovering new sounds and patterns. When it’s put that way, this decision really seems like no decision at all.