Even before listening to Back Yard’s We Like It Raw (Future Records), it’s obvious that the group is sending out mixed messages. The liner notes to this go-go outfit’s most recent release thank God, while accompanying photos capture the band members in matching “Bad Boys of Go-Go” T-shirts, laughing, with several of them giving the finger to the camera. Their visceral music has its Jekyll-and-Hyde tendencies as well. Back Yard, like seemingly all go-go units these days, spends more time transforming rap and R&B hits than crafting its own funk. The most hard-core in its attitude and presentation of all the locals, Back Yard generally uses the skeletal bottom of its songs as a springboard from which to launch foul-mouthed sentiments about “the bitches in my living room” or more friendly shout-outs to area neighborhoods. The lyrical bleat is aided by gritty percussive breaks and efficient, minimalistic keyboard plunking.

Occasionally, however, the Yard does surprise. On “Cruisin’ Together,” a D’Angelo-inspired Smokey Robinson cover, lead vocalist Genghis earnestly croons the soul poet’s romantic ode over soothing electronic piano rhythms. More typical, however, is “Rock the Boat,” an eight-minute number in which the singer augments the group’s stripped-down Hues Corporation adaptation with a profane take on the 69 Boyz “Tootsie Roll.” Back Yard’s Native Son-meets-gangsta rap lyrical perspective on ghetto streetcorner behavior sends confusing signals as well. In “Shook One,” Yard members defiantly howl, “You can’t hide forever from these streets that we done took,” while their spooky version of the Luniz’s “Five on It” features Genghis wailing, “I don’t want to live no more,” over ominous chimelike sonics. At area stores. CP

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