Album Review by Jonathan Dyer
Up to the turn of the millennium, ASIAN DUB FOUNDATION could do no wrong. Their 1998 album RAFI’S REVENGE met with much critical acclaim, earning them a Mercury Music Prize nomination into the bargain. The band built on the groundswell of opinion behind them in 2000, with the incendiary and excellent COMMUNITY MUSIC catching the zeitgeist perfectly, its political awareness and jungle-dub-rap-ragga sound proving a perfect antidote to another wave of anodyne guitar bands aping the Kinks and the Beatles.
Within a year of the departure of founding member and rapper Deeder Zaman at the end of 2000, despite having delivered the most successful album of their career the band had been dropped by London Records as part of a fairly brutal corporate thinning down exercise.
So, via various new members, extensive touring and 2003’s well received but commercially underperforming ENEMY OF THE ENEMY, we arrive at TANK. The eclectic approach is still there with the mish-mash of styles genuinely thrilling in places, but it is all too clear what a charismatic and awe-inspiring frontman Zaman was and how much the band miss him. The political overtones that have characterised the band’s career to date are present throughout – OIL, HOPE and TAKE BACK THE POWER all especially eloquent in delivering their intelligent and powerful messages, but overall the album lacks the sheer gusto and focused anger of their earlier work.
The phrase “ahead of their time” is overused in terms of music criticism and debate, but a run through Community Music (now five years old) leaves little more to say than that – its commentary on the socio-political climate of Great Britain and the world at the time still sounds urgent and relevant today – far more so than TANK manages to, even during its better moments. Whilst looking retrospectively at ADF’s earlier work in comparison may be an unfair and obvious route to take, one cannot help but feel that time has finally caught up with them.