One of the factors that always had me ambivalent about neo soul was the genres tendency to cross bridges. It could never seem to decide whether it wanted to be retro or contemporary,artful or commercial. Add to that having a tendency to revel in cliches such as the vinyl scratch sound effects of song intros and out of sync beats and rhythms added to its seeming lack of focus. But for those who liked 70’s soul and funk as the new millennium arrived? This genre was about all the commercial end of the hip-hop spectrum seemed to offer such an audience. There were happily many occasions where the genre succeeded-based generally on the creative virtues of the artists involved. The Internet are a recent example. Arriving on the scene a bit late for neo soul,as more secure 70’s style soul/funk is re-emerging with modern production,this somewhat revolving door LA group released their sophomore record this years Feel Good in February and presenting their lead off song “Dontcha'”.
Visually its an austere video,shot in black & white and presenting itself extremely generally: the band consisting of bassist/guitarist Patrick Paige, guitarist Mike Einziger, drummer Christopher Smith, synthesizer player Chad Hugo and the androgynous lead singer/keyboardist Syd “THe Kid” Bennett performing the song against a platinum white backdrop. The song starts out with Chad playing a thumping,single note on the synthesizer bass before the song builds into a Fender Rhodes solo which returns on each melodic refrain in a dreamy and phased high solo. Patrick and Mike on bass and guitar are locked down tight into a chunky disco-funk style arrangement. Syd’s vocal style is very much in the vein of a somewhat lower key Amel Larrieux (of Groove Theory fame) and melds like clue to to the metaphoric model airplane that is the sound The Internet achieves with their extremely lean sound that manages to instrumentally take flight.
While the song and video are both very stripped down,it gets the effect of the transitional post disco/boogie funk sound down pat with a jazzy element that brings to mind elements of Chuck Brown’s original go-go funk approach as well. Not to mention the song is very sweetly melodic compositionally. One of the most telling factors about the song is that lead singer/keyboardist Syd Bennett seems somewhat deliberately sexually ambiguous. She’s not trying to get attention by being camp. Her image is that of a young boy from the projects in jeans and T-shirt-where in fact both genders might be dressed this way often enough. And the lyrics to this song reflect the idea of imagination and creativity being as important an element to adult romance and sensuality as realism-especially with lines such as “Swimming through your galaxy,starstruck on all of you /Perfect love analogy, that’s how I describe you”. The lyrical and instrumental eloquence of this song is a superb example of a late in the day neo soul/nu jazz group making music that perfectly reflects both the core of sophistifunk and the sparer approach of electro boogie funk in a modern context.