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Standout Track: No. 2, “Ghetto Gone Uptown,” the closest thing to a love ballad on The Archives’ self-titled debut—even if it’s about oppression and civil unrest. The Archives are a coalition of reggae veterans organized in part by Thievery Corporation’s Eric Hilton. On their new record (also produced by Hilton), they deliver a collection of rocksteady and early dancehall-driven originals. The conscious edge is a prerequisite. “Most people associate reggae with Bob Marley,” says Archives keyboardist Darryl “D-Trane” Burke. “He was very socially conscious, that was his whole front, man. When he reached his zenith, his apex, he was about justice and [that’s why] people expect something more aware when they go to a roots-rock show.”
Musical Motivation: The tune’s summery romanticism belies its message. While its soft guitar solo and sax motif invoke the slow-dance portion of an outdoor wedding, singers Ras Puma and Lenny Kurlou—from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and Kingston, Jamaica, respectively—rhyme “legislation” with “Babylon” in their Caribbean drawls, and drop philosophy like “The pen is mightier than the sword, but a sword will settle the score.” Burke says, “It would be considered, like, lover’s rock reggae, like rub-a-dub, but it’s about justice.”
Covers Rock: Hilton contacted Burke in early 2011 with an idea for a cover band. Burke formed a group, but soon began writing originals, and recruited Puma out of Virginia Beach. The ensemble landed a residency at Hilton’s Patty Boom Boom. Since then, the group has logged multihour sets, refining their skills, and it’s paid off. On their debut record, The Archives’ ear for period-appropriate aesthetics and production is keen throughout.
The original version of this post inaccurately identified Darryl Burke as The Archives’ bassist. He is the band’s keyboardist.