"The boom boom bap/The tap a tap tap/Well, that's the beat of my life," coos Green Gartside at the start of White Bread Black Beer, Scritti Politti's first proper album in seven years. Singing with androgynous softness over pillowy instrumentation he wrote, played and recorded entirely at his east London residence, he's basically inviting us into his heart and home.
That intimacy stretches across the whole record, and Gartside reflects on his pet topics as peacefully as if he'd just crawled out of bed. The songs are so pretty you'd swear he wanted to make a pared-down Pet Sounds in his bedroom and had at least managed to match the pristine gentleness of East River Pipe. He even does his own heavenly vocal harmonies.
We'll skip the full history lesson, but just know that Scritti Politti's career has spanned decades and seen hit singles on both sides of the pond. The post-punk classic "Skank Bloc Bologna" caught the ear of a young John Peel and landed the band on Rough Trade, the label it's with today. The Welsh-born Gartside has worked with Mos Def, toured with Gang of Four and been covered by Miles Davis.
He's never settled in one genre for long, dabbling in hip-hop and reggae with as much eagerness as with rock and punk. The Mercury Prize-nominated White Bread has tinges of electro, folk and funk but is in essence a pop record.
Fellow Rough Trade iconoclast Jeffrey Lewis is supporting Scritti Politti on tour, dispensing tunes from City & Eastern Songs, a collaboration with his brother Jack. Lewis is as famous for his comics as for his songs, and the latter possesses all the surreal qualities of the former. Between warbling about oral sex and LSD, he conveys an adorable frailness on "Back When I Was 4," a touching account of growing up and growing old. Gartside would surely approve.
Scritti Politti and Jeffrey Lewis at the House of Blues, 1530 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 778-2583. Mon., 7 p.m. $15-17.50.
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