You know, I may just do a Subdudes Idiot’s Guide one of these days, so I’m going to hold off on the heavy “analysis” (or whatever it is that I do here) for Behind the Levee. What I’ll say is this:
1. The Subdudes are good.
2. No, they’re fucking great.
3. Behind the Levee might be their best album yet.
This is their second release since returning from an eight-year hiatus with 2004’s uneven Miracle Mule, and maybe the first since ’94’s Annunciation that has found them sounding as confident and relaxed as they ought to. Subsequent albums strained too hard to be clever, or to capture the band’s live party vibe, or both. I think a lot of people have probably given up on The Subdudes ever delivering a studio album that shows what the band can really do, but they’ve done it here; the irony is, they did it by realizing they didn’t have to try so hard.
Behind the Levee is greasy, laid-back, and funky — but if you’ve ever listened to any Subdudes recordings, you already knew that. Really, the ways this album improves upon its predecessors are subtle, not revelatory; from Keb’ Mo’s thoughtful, refined production, down through the lyrics and wide-open arrangements, it’s essentially an album that sounds just like a Subdudes record, only better. Good for listening to with coffee in the morning:or with wine at night:or anywhere in between. Listen to “Next to Me” (download) and “Let’s Play” (download) and you’ll hear what I mean.