One of the first sounds you'll hear on Again, the long-time-coming second release from Chapel Hill's Dynamite Brothers, is a shared laugh. Let's imagine that it's a few of the Brothers' five core members thinking how funny it'd be to watch the brains of music writers overheat as they try to nail the band's sound with references and modifiers. Indie rock you can groove to? Late '60s big-thump hard rock with a nifty hard soul record collection (or, in review-speak, Zep meets The Spencer Davis Group)? Clinton, Zappa & Associates present inter-symphonic funk? Free-range free jazz? Yes. Yep. Uh huh. And sure, why not?
Check "In Time," a tune recently featured on the HBO series Eastbound and Down: A percussion-heavy intro yields to a near-Philly soul sunrise, the vocals hanging back and dodging bursts of brass. Everything's linked by a prog-funk instrumental bridge. "Out ta Getcha" makes for a raucous counterpart. Its Page & Co. stomp of an opening leads into both a funk workout and a psychedelic hoedown, with the whole enterprise capped by more laughter.
Anyone in search of pure soul, pure blues or pure anything, really, will only get the occasional giggle on Again. Rather, boundless joy is reserved for those who like their moods swinging and who find focus vastly overrated, as horns, hazy female vocals and quite possibly the spirit of Curtis Mayfield in action-soundtrack mode make cameos in this shifty mix. The band comes closest to playing it totally straight on the closer, "Purple Neon and Pink Champagne," a slowly gyrating soul number postmarked mid-'80s Minneapolis. The neon is purple, after all. The tune approximates a longing that starts to purr and growl as a hard-drinking Friday night turns into Saturday morning's wee hours. But just when you think someone's gonna get some, we find that the song's heroine is "walking down that long, lonely road," stuck waiting on her Romeo. By again zigging when many hearts are set on a zag, the Dynamite Brothers get the last laugh, too.
The Dynamite Brothers release Again Friday, Nov. 20, at The Cave. Transportation opens.