Don’t Be Afraid Of Love is hands down the best Lo Fidelity Allstars record. Don’t get me wrong – I love “Battle Flag” as much as anyone else, but the band moved in a new direction on their second album (March 5, 2002) and it was all for the better.
It was only fifteen years ago today that the Lo Fi Allstars dropped their second LP, but it seems like I’ve been listening to these songs all my life. The world went a little nuts over their first album, 1998’s How To Operate With A Blown Mind, but when one of the band’s creative forces, vocalist David Randall left after that record’s release, it fell to the rest of the outfit to regroup and move forward. Where their debut was eclectic and highlighted the electronic big-beat sounds perfected by the likes of Underworld and Fatboy Slim, Don’t Be Afraid Of Love delved much deeper into the funk and soul sounds that influenced the remaining band members.
From the fuzzed out electronics, bass, and vocals that open the album on “What You Want” it’s clear that this is a high-energy party album. It hearkens back to the first album with its production, sort of a give-the-people-what-they-want opener but things shift up quickly by the beginning of the second cut, “Deep Ellum… Hold On” featuring guest vocalist Jamie Lidell, with it’s opening sample from the Ohio Players‘s “Rattlesnake,” it’s clear that this is not …Blown Mind 2. Both the backing track and Lidell’s vocal delivery are deeply routed in traditional funk, the whole song dominated by a super-wide synth bass that crushes everything in its path.
The overwhelming funkiness pervades the whole record, going so far as to include further guesting by Geggy Tah‘s Greg Dulli as well as the original super-funkateer himself, Bootsy Collins. This is an album that is at the top of my “Why wasn’t this a much bigger hit?” list. I sometimes wonder if it was the timing – big beat was already starting to fall out of fashion by 2002, and though this wasn’t really in that genre, it’s predecessor was, so it might be that it was just lumped in thusly. It was also well before any sort of funk revival was ramping up to take place. It was the early oughts – where the ’90s were the grunge decade, people were still determining what the sound of the new millennium would be. Decidedly, it wasn’t this.
It’s a shame, really, because Don’t Be Afraid Of Love is an excellent and instantly accessible album full of radio-ready cuts like the Crystal-Method-by-way-of-Jamiroquai stomper “Cattleprod” or the funky/sleazy/sexy “Somebody Needs You.” “I think I met you at a party and left with an impression like / Foxy, I want you, I wonder what your mouth tastes like… Your lips could kill me, confuse me and fulfill me…” And the whole of the album is set to a bouncy funk that immediately burrows into your ears and makes your toes and fingers twitch. Even the slower, Bootsy Collins spoken word piece “On The Pier” is underscored by a loping, rolling bassline that provides the feeling of momentum without speed. The ’80s-soul-singer backing vocals give it an extra layer to offset the fact that Bootsy always sounds like he’s kidding around.
Follow the link in my first paragraph (just click on the album title) and get yourself a copy of this record. While it flew under the radar for the most part, the whole thing is one big bump-and-grindy warm-and-fuzzy and depending on which tracks you highlight, it works equally well on a Saturday night or a Sunday morning.