fri 04/12/2020

Album: Michael Franti & Spearhead - Work Hard & Be Nice | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Michael Franti & Spearhead - Work Hard & Be Nice

Album: Michael Franti & Spearhead - Work Hard & Be Nice

Ex-Beatnig and Disposable Hero of Hiphoprisy lurches towards the middle of the road

Michael Franti: positive vibes but tepid sounds

It’s over 30 years since Michael Franti entered the public arena, howling “Television – drug of the nation” backed by harsh, industrial sounds and explosive beats, as frontman for the Beatnigs. He then produced the Spare Ass Annie and Other Tales album with William Burroughs, as part of the visionary hip hop duo the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, before embracing funk, soul and reggae sounds, both as a solo artist and while fronting Spearhead.

It’s over 30 years since Michael Franti entered the public arena, howling “Television – drug of the nation” backed by harsh, industrial sounds and explosive beats, as frontman for the Beatnigs. He then produced the Spare Ass Annie and Other Tales album with William Burroughs, as part of the visionary hip hop duo the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, before embracing funk, soul and reggae sounds, both as a solo artist and while fronting Spearhead. It is, therefore, something of a shock that the musical influences for his latest album, Work Hard & Be Nice, seem to come from the same place as the ever-bland Lighthouse Family.

While popular thinking finally edges closer to Franti’s viewpoint in these uncertain times, it is again refreshing to hear from a man with a heart that has consistently been in the right place. However, a bit of grit really wouldn’t have gone astray in both the music and the lyrics of this album.

To some extent, Work Hard & Be Nice sounds like an attempt to bring positive, hippy vibes back to the mainstream without scaring the horses with challenging music. Feelgood, summery guitar pop is certainly the order of the day here, without any hint of irony or snarkiness. “Bad shit happens but good shit happens too” he croons on “Good Shit Happens”, while he leads a call and response of “Let’s be friends” with a choir of backing vocalists on “The Friends Song”. It’s all commendable stuff in our present situation, but it is also incredibly tepid musically.

Given Franti’s previous ability to make his point over music of some substance, Work Hard & Be Nice comes as a saccharine disappointment. If, as it seems, his goal remains as much political as it is artistic, let’s hope he’s able to regain a bit of sonic ballast to support the words for his next project.

A bit of grit really wouldn’t have gone astray in both the music and the lyrics of this album

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters