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August 4, 2008 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

The Black Seeds – Solid Ground

Oh dear. The Black Seeds have done it again. Despite taking an adventurous turn and experimenting with some cool synth sounds and adding a trumpet player, they’ve made yet another really boring album. The best thing that could be said about Solid Ground is that they certainly tried hard.

Probably the worst thing about the thirteen long, painfully upbeat tracks is the lyrics. Reminiscent of a government health campaign, they tell us things we already know in ways we’ve heard many, many times before, such as “We don’t need your negative vibrations, no, no, no” (‘Come To Me’). As it happens, I agree – negative vibrations totally suck. But could he not have found a more elegant way of saying it? As someone who actually uses the word ‘vibe’ sincerely in everyday conversation, I think I’m licensed to pass judgment on this. The sentiment may be genuine, but it sounds like bullshit.

Musically, it’s mostly the same bog-standard classic reggae seen in earlier albums. It’s obvious that the individual musicians all know their stuff, but the whole thing sounds too studied, too on-the-beat, too obvious to be truly inspiring. It’s another case of music that should be good, considering the band members’ combined talent, but lacks the sense of fun that often results from messiness and amateurism.

It’s like an academic essay – and not a very well-researched one either. If the ‘Seeds were truly trying to replicate classic Jamaican reggae, they surely would have noticed that it is essentially political music. They make vague Obama-esque comments about ‘change’ and ‘making a move’, but lack the political balls to get any deeper or more specific. This effectively takes the wind out of the genre’s sails, leaving us with something rather flaccid and static.

Maybe The Black Seeds are simply too rich and too white to make this music work. Maybe they don’t smoke enough pot. Or perhaps they’re too concerned with getting every note perfect to let any actual raw expression in to their shiny, upbeat, corporate hippy sonic universe.


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  1. Lol says:

    Wow, how exactly did you write a review before the albums even released?

  2. Chris Gee says:

    It is often said that a bad review will tell you more about the reviewer than the reviewee, and this is obviously the case here. While I am sure Stephanie has an impeccable and unarguablely superior taste in music and maybe an arts degree of some type, it is important for a reviewer to take a step back from their own tastes and think of what their readers want to know about the album… Too say “the BlackSeeds are too rich and too white” shows a massive lack of maturity, as does “their shiny, upbeat, corporate hippy sonic universe”. Its a shame these lamentations were not at the beginning of the review, this would have stopped any sober reader from continuing, knowing what they were in store for… The Black Seeds have never given any pretention of being a Micheal Franti or Fugazi for social comment, neither have they ever shown a need to replicate “classic Jamaican reggae”. They are a good-time funk/roots band… It seems to me their goal is to show people a good time, which they certainly do at their live shows. No one will put this CD on so that they can be made more politically aware, or so they can ‘be cool’ with any Jamaican gangsters they come across… People will put this album on so they can dance, or enjoy their drive, or forget about their pain for a while. If thats what this album was intended for, then it has succeeded… As for the “shiny, corprate universe?”… Please. I can garantee you these boys are not rich. neither do they intend to be. But to sustain yourself as a full time original musician requires a pragmatism that is often lost on the self-rightous and baby-faced student community. Maybe if these guys quoted Chomsky and had holes in their shoes you would ease up a little? Never mind Stephanie… I am sure one day you will create or accomplish something original that will be judged by a young student out to prove herself to her peers.

  3. John Keys says:


  4. gary says:

    I’ve just finished reviewing the album myself, and I went googling after submitting it to see what other’s thought. I can see where your criticism is coming from, but I don’t think it’s fair, Stephanie. I agree that if you’re looking for any real depth you won’t find much beyond a shallow puddle of idle chatter, but in terms of the music, i don’t think you can fault the Black Seeds.
    I reckon it’s fair to call Barnaby Weir on his lyrics, but I think the band have a great sound for summer.

  5. Hereticus Imphysician says:

    “but I think the band have a great sound for summer.”

    lamest defence of bland redundant music Ever.

  6. Al Gangbang says:

    I love the angry vomit of an angry Salient reader in the morning.

  7. iandeye says:

    FYI: if you had any knowledge of the band your reviewing you would know that they have always had a trumpet player…

  8. TIm says:

    Oh Stephanie, let your hair down sister!

    Great Album, with a great ‘vibe’

  9. Barack "Change" Obama says:

    Maybe the reason why they’re not doing a good job of replicating “classic Jamaican reggae” because they’re not replicating “classic Jamaican reggae”?

    I mean where on earth did you get the idea that they’re doing that?

  10. Tom says:

    The only thing that can be agreed with on this amateur review is “The Black Seeds have done it again” otherwise this is just some angry little emo girls useless retalliation at feel good music. Who cares what the lyrics say or mean it’s a song, if we wanted advice from a CD we’d listen to Tony Robins. The Black Seeds are something to be proud of in New Zealand music as they do not attempt to replicate foreign popular music as do the bland indie and hip hop groups that come out of NZ. Cheers Black Seeds. Please don’t let emos write reviews on good music.

  11. Al Gangbang says:

    Yay for ignorance! Down with criticism!

  12. olly says:

    maybe there are just people who make music they want to make, and people who listen to music they can access and enjoy…sound feasible?
    no musician should me made to appear as though they’ve done something ‘bad’, within reason of course…if people could obstruct music they didn’t like we would have no music at all.
    music criticism may be a reality, but isn’t it a bit like dancing about architecture?

  13. ray ray says:

    re Yay for ignorance! Down with criticism!

    Listening to your Dads Bob Marley records does not mean you know anything about Classic jamaican Reggae. It is not essentially a political music. Just like the souless electro that stephanie probably likes, Reggae has many sub genres that have nothing to do with politics. Unless you want to call The lovers style sexist….

    But hey, thats why your at University right. To get educated.

  14. a disgruntled soul says:

    “Just like the souless electro that stephanie probably likes”

    I think if we can learn anything from the bitter comments on the Salient music pages, its that peoples many attempts to try and categorise the music taste of others is always a futile waste of time.

  15. audiophile says:

    Black Seeds would become an awesome band… if they ditched the lead singer & put some effort into the lyrics…

    His voice is… flaccid… and the lyrics are average… maybe grab the lead singer from Cornerstone Roots… ?

    Musically these guys have got a good thing going…

  16. Chris says:

    The Black Seeds…. ditch Baranby Weir.

    …Fuckin GREAT idea!!

  17. Virginia says:

    flaccid? really? I doubt it. Barnaby Wier is an extraoridianry musician with a great voice. Do you even listen to the Black Seeds Audiophile?

  18. Trad says:

    It’s just a good album. It is not a revolution, it is not a collectors’ piece, it is not the 8th wonder. Just a nice album, in a genre that lucks of musicians and from a band that, indeed, tries hard and has a very characteristic sound. Isn’t it so Steph?

  19. Somchai Wongsawat says:

    Barnaby is the best thing about the Black Seeds. I think you’re flaccid Audiophile.

  20. tommm says:

    What a terrible review. U need to find another job woman… if you didn’t enjoy the bands new album, you really need to find a new of expressing your feelings.. Also, half of the statements you made were incorrect anyway… you sound like a fool girl

  21. A Disgruntled Soul says:

    daymn man, tht shit aint no thing hell shit was flyin all ova da place higgilty piggilty pop and shiiiiiiiat goddamn and no fool aint ever called that bitch a ho.

  22. Dreyfus Fardnegga says:

    Haa i remember staying in wierd house in mid 60’s. was around b4 da Beatles yawl !! liked from Byrds, Brubeck, Bill Evans, Victoria De Los Angeles, Vlad Horowitz, Andre Tarkovsky soundtracks, Kurt Elling, Shapeshifter rat a tat tat ..Salmonella !! getting the feel ??? how many 63 yr olds Stephanie do you know that dig track 9 off of Upbeats Nobody out there ??? yay and i will add and proud to be with my ears for listening … The Black Seeds..some great great tracks !!! yep i would dig to hear their beautiful music more in my life !!!Dreyfus

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