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Spiritual Rez | Apocalypse Whenever

album review by John Powell

Spiritual Rez | Apocalypse Whenever

To open Spiritual Rez’s second LP, Toft Willingham sings, “Until our savior comes/ man’s got his hands to rely on.” For this Boston-based reggae/funk party, it’s been a grassroots, working hard and playing harder determination that has delivered a steady fanbase and this excellent set of songs. The statement of this song matches their dedication and hard work.

For fans, this is more of the same found on Nexus, although thankfully the band, who experienced major line-up changes several years ago, took their time to become inspired again. Many of these tunes are road-tested, so they land on the album with absolute surety. For production, the band took on some healthy risks with whizzes and whirs, without once losing steam.

Spiritual Rez is at their best with catchy reggae songs with ska energy and rock persona. There’s no shortage of such tracks on Apocalypse Whenever, which returns to such a theme periodically throughout. Take the same opener, where Toft predicts the end of the good stuff: “Why do we wake up early in the morning/ just to work late into the evening/ Who’s got the path to salvation?” The End is definitely at the forefront.

“Bring it On” is where they get the album title: “Bring it on/ bring it on,” Toft warns and adds with his consistent sarcasm, “I got my second amendment/ stockpiled in my basement.” Then, of course, there’s one of the album’s key tracks, “Let’s Go Out With a Bang”, a could-be corny love song that deletes all cheese in the place of poetic joking. “If the end is coming/ we should be too,” Toft rattles offhandedly.

Another key track is “Agapoula Mou”, an unabashed love song to Toft’s new wife. And while all members of Rez have the charisma to be ladykillers, they are, as a whole, softies for romance. Leave it to the slick one-drop, roaming bass, guitar interplay, and rich horn lines, but the vibe is incredibly Floridian. “My momma told me not to settle,” Toft begins. “How will I know?” he asks, and, quoting his dad, he adds, “You’ll just know.” It’s a sweet love song and one you’ll set to repeat.

They break the mold for “What It’s About”, trying on jazz funk hats. “It ain’t about making a name,” Toft croons. “It’s about kindness to your fellow man.” While you might deduct points for the string section and the band’s sporadic quirks that may not fit the overall vibe, you have to trust in the band’s honesty. While many of their contemporaries either linger on love songs or stick to political agendas, Spiritual Rez promotes conscious fun, and that shines through.

For their current incarnation, Rez scored Rob O’Block, whose guitar playing style both matches and complements Toft’s- and Mohamed Araki on keys, who elevates the band’s sound and has made their touring act unstoppable. They add much to the fun, energetic blend of sounds and the band’s commitment to strong melodies.

I’m fairly certain everyone everywhere will like this album. Play it for grandma’s 80th and put on for your swingers party. It’s that good.

Bottom line: Yet again we’re reminded why we love Spiritual Rez.


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