Guitar and harmonica melded with loops and samples, Reacclimate, the fourth studio album by Dan Turnbull, his first since before the pandemic struck, captures the pent up energy of those lockdown years, a sentiment deftly summed up in the opening strum and thump track ‘I’ve Slept Enough’ where, a Kent ‘one man electro blues band’ answer to Dr Feelgood, he gravelly growls that he’s “Coming out fighting, fighting on another day/Gonna be as subtle, subtle as a hand grenade/I wave flags, wave flags at my own parade/When life gets bitter, get lemons make lemonade” because “Tonight we’re gonna party/Until the sun comes up”.
The relentless urgency continues as he gets political on the staccato ‘Shake It Up’ (“Do you think you’re special, do you think you’re hard/Would you be mano-a-mano without your entourage/With all those goons in suits, they are just monkeys on the loose/Who wants their name in lights maybe something ain’t the right size”), the title inspired he says by members of the public making their feelings felt about “these supposed untouchables, spouting so much hate” with milkshake grenades. With no little irony, it features a banging cowbell riff.
He breaks out the harp and that ever reliable blues cliché “I woke up this morning” for the elbowing swagger of ‘Can’t Stop The Music’, possibly another post-pandemic number but more generally an explosion of positivism (“I feel so lucky to be alive/One foot before the other and out in the world/Got a spring I my step to the songs of the birds/Every light’s green even if they are red/ It’s one of those days, I’m glad I’m not dead”) with its funky punchy chorus “Can’t stop the music if you keep on dancing/Can’t stop your voice if you keep on singing/Can’t stop your dreams if you keep believing in them”.
That same sentiment boogies on through the believe in yourself ‘One In A Million’ (“I should be down on my knees/I won’t ask God to answer me/All I need is inside me/What’s inside me is all I need”) which is somewhat less blues and more an electro Fatback Band by way of a motorik Giorgo Moroder. When he roars “I am redemption in this house” you’ll want to touch his hem.
He doesn’t really do ballads, but he does slow it down for ‘O Great Mother’, a track he describes as his “Dandy Warhols-meets-Portishead”, a five minute dub psych-rock number written following a late-night argument about how fast the moon was travelling through the sky that opens on a note of compassion and vulnerability (“O great mother/you look tired tonight/Your heart is cracked and creaking/But your face still shines so bright/Lead on follower/Don’t walk alone/The path that’s so well-trodden/Is the one that takes you home”) and develops in a song about faith, seeking answers and exhaustion (“Great wise father/Shine some wisdom on me/I’ve been howling at the moon/But just the stars reply to me/Oh how I wish I may/I wish I might/Wish another wish/And finally get some sleep tonight”).
He doesn’t do love songs either, but, nevertheless, here’s ‘Ani’s Song’, dialling down the electronic effects and vocal intensity for simple acoustic loping strum and whistling on a piercingly poignant number in the wake of losing his partner to cancer (“It might be dysphemistic to think out of sight, means out of mind/But your face is etched clear in my thoughts, every time I close my eyes…it must be my mind playing tricks on me‘cuz I can feel you like a landslide, tearing at the cliffs of my memories”). But even here, he strikes a positive note: “clouds overhead doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to start raining”.
Coming back from a tragedy like that requires strength and focus to get through, hence the vein of determination and self-healing that runs throughout, again evident, pulling the tempo back up, on ‘Something, Everyday’ with its confession “I forgot to be/The person I used to be/I can’t look at myself/In case I’m staring back at me/I try to get better every day/But every day I try and get better/I still end up the same/Got to stop thinking there’s a better place than this/Maybe realise/This is the best that it can get” and the realisation that while “It’s addictive to stay incomplete/To become that missing piece…nothing’s ever been achieved/With inactivity”.
It’s back then to that driving percussive beat and social commentary on the Animal Farm-referencing (“Four legs are better than two, bruv”) ‘Take, Take, Take’, with its theme of envy and negative self-worth (“Someone’s got a better life than you/Someone’s got more stuff than you do/Someone’s grass is greener/Someone’s sugar’s just a little bit sweeter/Someone’s got a lot more money/Someone’s jokes are twice and funny”), sounding like Beans On Toast gargling bile as he sings “I want some more/Give me yours/Accumulate/And Take, Take, Take, Take, Take, Take, Take”.
Frustration with the impersonal system and the way it beats you down is at the heart of the penultimate staccato jabbing ‘This Is How They Operate’ (“I want to fight, but I’m hanging on the ropes/I’m so tired, ‘cuz I’ve been swinging at ghosts/I’ve got my circuits crossed, from the wires they’re feeding/On a loop back round to aggrieved disagreement”). It’s here that the album title surfaces, in the call to adapt to the new conditions and survive rather than accept and surrender so that “When they want you to hate/When they try and divide/Reassemble/Reacclimate”.
It ends on a strummed midtempo acoustic note with the ‘Pufferfish Blues’, punningly titled after the blue fish that, when threatened by predators, can inflate into a spiny ball shape and which is incredibly toxic, a clever number warning that you can only push people so far (“Are you pushing me around just to get high/I wouldn’t fuck around with me/I killed two people only just last night/If you’ve got to take what you think you’re owed/You can break my body, but you can’t touch my soul”) and while they may “just want to exist/Down at greater depths/Hiding in anemones/Darting in between the reefs”, eventually “The more you push, the more that we grow/The tide is gonna turn/If you take what you ain’t earned”.
A triumphant, galvanising return to both disc and touring (live he’s like watching force of nature erupt), at one point he sings “There’s nothing stopping me/I’m a phenomenal beauty into beast/There’s so much glitter, it sticks to my teeth/I just want to sparkle/From my head/To my feet …Wind me up and watch me go”. Reacclimate is a climate change you really should embrace.
Artist’s website: www.funkeandthetwotonebaby.co.uk
‘One In A Million’ – official video:
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