The Electric Mile, G. Love & Special Sauce Epic Records

Paul Wong
Catch Staind tonight as they roll through EMU on the “Wake the Fuck Up” tour, along with Godsmack, Cold and Systematic.<br><br>Courtesy of Elektra

You”ve gotta wonder whether G. Love knows something the rest of us don”t. How else has the Philly-born blues-rapper maintained such a high level of optimism and energy over seven years and four albums outside of the mainstream spotlight? G. Love has made a career of giving substance to the abstract ideal of human happiness, which in his music takes various forms, from the soul-touching warmth of a lover”s embrace to the cool caress of a Spring breeze. Positivity is his creed, and never has he articulated it so eloquently as on The Electric Mile, his fifth studio album with bassist Jimi “Jazz” Prescott and drummer Jeffrey “Houseman” Clemens, a.k.a. Special Sauce.

Picking up where 1999″s Philadelphonic left off, Mile is G. Love”s most fluid and melodic effort to date. The disc begins with the reggae-soaked “Unified,” a call for racial harmony that fondly recalls the best efforts of Bradley Nowell and Sublime. Where in the past he would have opted for a spoken-word or rap delivery, he is now stretching himself vocally on songs like “Night of the Living Dead” and “Still Hope (Outro),” the latter of which is aided by a healthy dose of sultry female backup vocals.

Longtime fans will be pleased to find that the musical connection between G. and his Special Sauce comrades is stronger than ever. Prescott and Clemens should be commended for the level of restraint they exercise in their role as rhythm section. At no point do they step on the toes of their frontman, and Mile is better for their judiciousness.

Ultimately, what we have here is a rare specimen indeed: An album of thought-provoking tunes without a hint of pretense. G. Love is no Zack De La Rocha, but he”s got a message that gets across in a convincing and endearing manner (see: Neil Young). “I got no time to put the other man down,” he raps on “Parasite,” a tune which decries the doublespeak of politicians who “leech off of the people” in this “flea-eat-dog world.” At other times he wisely opts for musical expression over the turn of a clever phrase. G. Love is the kind of musician who recognizes that a harmonica solo can say just as much, if not more, than even the most compelling lyric.

Much of G. Love”s appeal lies in the way he provides a socially-conscious alternative to the tired, clich-ridden “bitches and money” rap music of today while simultaneously offering up a breath of fresh air for rock “n roll fans who are weary of hearing Fred Durst repeat his favorite expletive over a canned break-beat while radio and MTV insult their intelligence by passing it off as cutting-edge “rap-rock.” On The Electric Mile, G. Love rocks harder with an acoustic guitar in his hands and a smile on his face than any of the rap-rock “pioneers” that currently rule modern rock radio.

Grade: B+

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