Thievery Corporation’s duo of DJs have sampled world tribal music and 70s lounge music for years. Music best used in the backtracks of movies and television shows, most notably made famous by Garden State’s “Lebanese Blonde,” the group’s latest effort, Radio Retaliation, breaks no new ground, unless the lyrical political message can be considered new by any means.
The biggest problem with the album, which is not necessarily a bad album as much as a disappointment, is that there’s no need to go past a minute within each track. The repetitive nature of the songs that are meant to soothe, such as “Sweet Tides” and “Vampires,” instead bore. The most successful lounge song on the album is “La Femme Parallel,” which employs the gimmick of French lyrics in order to add interest. Though not the most inspiring or creative bit of music, the song does have the taste of something antique and romantic. The sexy sound of the female voice compliments the horn and the synthetic backdrop.
Another minor issue with the album is Radio Retaliation’s attempt at a cohesive track-listing. Thievery Corporation is known for two very specific types of sound; however, they are unable to reconcile the sampling of African-esque with the more groove music. “Vampires” is one of the few tracks to mix the two genres, but only in a bland, repetitive manner. “The Forgotten People” and “The Numbers Game” both clash with “Sweet Tides.”
The band has furthered backed themselves into a musical corner by announcing that this album is their most political potent to date. The lyrics are almost de-universalized, relying on changing political climate to speak to a collective consciousness. Not only does their timing seem off for a politically charged album about a dying administration, but the venue of sound does not compliment a lyrical message that’s goal is to make people listen.
Thievery Corporation relies on a pseudo-eclectic synthetic sound that is more about the actual sound, the voice of the singers being an accompaniment as opposed to the lyrics carrying a message. Again, this is where, though not as forward as they have aimed, “La Femme Parallel” works with foreign lyrics. The voice is merely an additional instrument.
Overall, for a first time listener, Radio Retaliation may be a treat. The sound is unique. It is for the veteran, for the fan, that the album becomes too much of a good thing. The sounds are tiresome, and are better as background, and most likely, that is where Thievery Corporation will remain-in the backdrop of films and television shows.