Pama International - Pama Outernational
Release date2 Nov 2009
Pama International are unashamedly nostalgic - their latest album Pama Outernational's packaging even lists an A side and a B side despite being on cd. But what prevents them from coming on like just another misguided retro act is their mixing up bygone styles of Jamaican and American music to create something all of their own.
This new long player builds on the darker more overtly socio-political direction taken by previous release Love Filled Dub Band. The expansive, Lee Perry-flanged influences of that record are notably absent; and the band, along with producers Sean Flowerdew and John Collins, have drawn heavily on the sullen minor key UK roots and dub of the late seventies instead.
Opener Equality & Justice For All sets the tone with a wailing, almost demented call to "Stride out" from singer Finny and a grim, spoken answer of the song’s title from Specials guitarist Lynval Golding. Funkier (though still bleak) single Happenstance – featuring the descending “Sun Is Shining” guitar chords the group love so much - conjures up a paranoid world of political machinations: where we are all sacrificed pawns in a game we don’t understand. Both are followed arguably superior dubs. Look Out Your Window ups the “dread” feel with a kick drum heavy steppers type beat and a King Tubby style high pass filter all over the drums.
But don't panic - there's still plenty of the soul-infused bouncy ska and "uptown" reggae for which Pama are known and loved. Keyboardist and composer Sean Flowerdew has written perhaps the greatest pop song of his career so far in I Still Love You More: with its uplifting sentiments and fanfare horns. Yet overall the tempos are more relaxed, the lyrics cut deeper, and the arrangements are more streamlined this time around. Trade It All For More tackles the hardships of the economic downturn. Are We Saved Yet takes a jaded but defiant position familiar from The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again, asking “how many protest songs do we have to sing?”.
Though not as fast or as fun as prior outings, this album is their most balanced and focused to date. Traditionally a good time band, Pama are showing their serious side.
Reviewed by Angus Taylor