Monday, 2 April 2012

Culture Shock - Legal Tender 2.5 Review

With over 100,000 downloads so far, Legal Tender 2.5 by Culture Shock must be one of the most successful free downloads of the year. When it was first released some fans were unable to download it because it was so popular and the servers could not cope with the demand. A sign of just how much people wanted to get their hands on this album. Some of the songs on the mixtape were previously released, but for the purpose of this review I will ignore this and look at each track individually in the context of the album.

It’s clear a lot of hard work has gone into making and promoting the album. Each track is well produced and it is nice that the group have made themselves available to fans for questions and feedback. Lyrics are usually hard to get hold of, but each song has its own video on youtube complete with sing-a-long captions. An English translation in these videos would have been a nice addition.

After listening to the album a few times it appears that many of the songs have a similar structure: strong beats set against an electro bass background, a language change in the vocals halfway through the song accompanied by a change in tempo then back again. This is a successful formula, and forms part of Culture Shock’s unique style, but makes some of the songs sound similar to each other and at times I would have liked more variation.

Some of the tracks have the same title and come in pairs. They will either be in different languages, or will have the Punjabi removed from the other version. I like the concept, especially as it reaches out to those who don’t want to listen to music in another language, but it makes the album feel repetitive at times if you understand both languages. 

Beautiful is a song that has two versions in different languages and the lyrics in the English version hint to the title of the album. The addition of the female vocalist makes a nice contrast in the English version, but I found them distracting in the Punjabi version. Choppy syncopated beats open Drum Roll. The Punjabi contrasts nicely with the English vocals and I preferred the Punjabi version to the English only version of the song.

Gaddi in My Way is a full on party anthem with lots of bass. Traditional lyrics blend well with a more modern background and the English vocals give the track a nice texture and keep it interesting. Talli is the traditional drinking song. This has a summery club vibe with a few hints of tumbi. It’s a full on Desi party song that wakes up with a hangover the next day.                                                                        

Nidy Kaur features on Save the World and it is nice to hear a female voice on what is a very male album. The vocal dialogue between Nindy and Culture Shock is fabulous. The combination of traditional vocals and more modern elements work well together. This is one of those tracks that really gets into your head especially the line “to a place we can dance all day.”

As well as the club tunes, there are some slower romantic songs on Legal Tender 2.5. Despite the English title, Alone is in Punjabi. It has a nice atmospheric start and works wonderfully due to its simplicity. World is another slow song, It creates a lovely romantic ambiance, but then totally ruins the mood with incredibly plosive letter “p”s in “put your hands up“.  It’s a small detail but it made me wince and after a few listens I found myself unwilling to hear it despite it being my favourite track on the first listen.

Exed Up features some lovely rich tones and has a laid back feel to it. It opens with a calm piano instrumental which contrasts with the rest of the song. There is very short language change and what sounds like a sample from Aa Tayar Hoja from Asoka. Tu Hai Meri and Nothing Compares are two songs which have a pop feel. Slower and simple there is a nice romantic feel to both which is sweet but not overtly so.

Verdict: Despite some minor points, this is a good album. Legal Tender 2.5 has a great energy throughout even in the slower songs. Culture Shock are a talented trio and there are quite a few songs that make catchy summer anthems. Download it now from their facebook page while the servers are still working.

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