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Joyously diverse melting pot of sound

Under the Influence of Giants - Under the Influence of Giants
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: July 25, 2006
Under the Influence of Giants

Review by Andy Argyrakis

Like the name implies, Under the Influence of Giants has sought the sonic counsel of artists its admired throughout members' southern California upbringing. Everyone from Sly and the Family Stone to Earth, Wind and Fire to Talking Heads to Madonna has rubbed off on the foursome, leading to a bizarre but joyously diverse melting pot of funk, dance, rhythmic pop and blue eyed soul. It's an ambitious journey that's finally come to fruition following some of the guys' time in Home Town Hero and Audiovent. But unlike those short lived blips on the rock n' roll radar, UTIOG is poised for permanency.

The reasons unfold from the lead cut "Ah Ha," which adapts a 70s funk feel over African tribal beats a la David Byrne and company. It's follow-up "Got Nothing" is just as impulsive, exploding with a brass section and jazzy flourishes before unveiling husky harmonies during each chorus. The lead single "Mama's Room" continues to cloud any classification mechanism, dipped in Prince oriented falsettos with a white washed groove.

That dance floor packing ability further drips into the electronically centered "In the Clouds," which could've quite possibly been found on Madonna's latest album, but without the glossy coat of sugar. It also bears resemblance to the group's recent tour mates Mute Math, offering a no holds barred approach at keyboard driven experimentation and coming across abundant hooks in the process. Yet the guys pull another unpredictable punch with the acoustically centered "Lay Me Down," its most stripped back exposition showcasing singer Aaron Bruno's sensitive side. As a result, UTIOG is likely to find a cross section of fans who appreciate boundary breakers and are coming to despise the mechanical means of the mainstream. 

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