Taken from Ink Blot Magazine (November, 2003)
Michael Franti & Spearhead
Everyone Deserves Music
Boo Boo Wax, Released 2003
by Matt Cibula
I have tried to dismiss this record for months now. Its music is too kitchen-sink, too derivative, too all-inclusive, and its lyrics are way too simplistic and corny and sentimental and hippie-dipped. My expensive education and my ironic detachment just will not let me take this record seriously.
So why the hell am I crying my eyes out, here at the computer at 10:30 at night, all by myself, listening to "Never Too Late"? This god-damned song, with its reggae overtones and its folk-rock touches and its oh-so-dated turntable-pop scratches laid in, with its words that just try way too freakin' hard to make you happy in the face of sadness, to force you to appreciate how your life is maybe okay after all . well, it makes me cry every single time I hear it, especially when he gets to the line "Don't fear your father / Cause a father's just a boy without a friend." By the time Franti is telling you to pick up the phone and call your loved ones, and to rest your head on his big shaggy shoulder, you'll be right there with me, bawling your eyes out.
Michael Franti, with his impossibly warm baritone and his fuzzy huggy soul, has abandoned all pretense at being dark or edgy . probably because he sees that that's a dead-end too. He doesn't just want to show us that nature is beautiful: he wants to become nature on "What I Be," the flowers and trees and sunshine and sex itself. I shit you not. On "Pray for Grace," he acknowledges that sometimes our lives are filled with "shades of gray," but he reminds us that "there is no pill that can be swallowed / there is no guru that can be followed" -- see, told you it was corny! But, y'know, when you hear it (especially in its spunky world-riddim setting), all that clever naysaying falls away, and what remains is a really good feeling about the world. A sense that it's all gonna be okay.
Of course, most of the credit goes to Spearhead. This band is just a monster, with amazing guitar work like always from Dave Shul and an adventurous spirit from everyone involved. How they manage to work the "Train in Vain" guitar riff together with the hi-riding disco drums and gospel harmonies to form something that sounds vaguely like heaven on "Yes I Will," I don't know; but I'm glad they do it. They sound like Haircut 100 doing the theme from "The Love Boat" on "Love Invincible" (yes, that is the title for real, what's your point?). They have a couple smoothed-out Latinate jams in the middle and the end of the record, they rip two additional Clash riffs off for "We Don't Stop" . this might be the hardest-working band in the world right now. Oh, and Sly and Robbie are in there too, and Gift of Gab from Blackalicious. Just so you know.
If you hate on someone trying to make the whole world feel better through music, you will not be moved by Franti's open-hearted appeal to you. If you hate every form of good music ever made, you will not want to dance to these songs. If you hate humanity, you will hate this record. But if there is one little glimmer of hopefulness within your heart that someone out there somewhere can help someone else feel happy with a song -- even happy enough to cry -- then Everyone Deserves Music might have a shot with you. Just don't dismiss it for a little corniness-geniuses of the heart are allowed to be a little bit corny.
If you like Spearhead, check out:
Spearhead Chocolate Supa Highway
Digable Planets Blowout Comb
Black Eyed Peas Behind the Front
The Clash London Calling