- 10 Nov 23
Black Pumas’ soul-drenched 2019 debut album had it all – great songs, the musical acumen of Adrian Quesada (he moonlights with funk conglomerate Brownout whose instrumental cover of Public Enemy, Fear Of A Brown Planet, is well worth seeking out), and the voice of Eric Burton, which could charms birds out of trees and persuade them to hand over personal details.
Taking up round about where they left off, this follow-up which laughs long and hard at any notion of second album syndrome opens with the monumentally great soul opera ‘More Than A Love Song’. The first section as Burton celebrates life and music over snaky guitar and strings is one thing but then after a psych/soul break, we get spoken word before a gospel backing lifts it all to “fly together” to somewhere else. Life might be more than a love song but it's made a lot easier when there are songs like this one soundtracking it. A late bet for single of the year.
‘Ice Cream (Pay Phone)’ mixes falsetto, distorted guitar and subtle bass, and calling your baby on a payphone while negotiating with the operator will always be more romantic than half-arsed texting. They stick with slightly arcane methods of communication on ‘Mrs Postman' which they were playing as far back as a memorable Academy gig in 2020. It has an air of the carefree joy that the best Motown records floated on and is driven by piano and another dangerously rubbery bass line that picks up your ass and moves it around. The title track is minor chord noir soul worthy of the 70s masters especially the god-like Curtis Mayfield whose voice Burton echoes.
His pleading on ‘Angel’ is matched by an opening chord sequence and guitar solo that could be George Harrison, the choir returns to take the second half of ‘Hello’ heavenwards after Burton has already delivered lines as sharp as "The sun gets closer when it looks at you", ‘Sauvignon’ takes their funk to Mali thanks to the desert twang of Quesada's guitar, and they throw the kitchen sink at swirling closer ‘Rock and Roll’. It promises "sweet action" and "liberation" which sound just fine by me.
While Diamond is perhaps not as immediate as the first record, several repeated spins - no chore at all - prove it as good if not better, which is fair going. Get down and get with it.