BLK JKS: ZOL! CD review (Blurt)

(8 out of 10)

Among the many profound disappointments felt during this year’s World Cup –really Argentina? – one of the most puzzling to me was the complete absence of the BLK JKS from all those musical beds used by the TV networks. Occasionally, one might hear Shakira’s loony “Waka Waka” (the Cup’s official song) or K’naan’s “Wavin’ Flag” (the Cup’s, uh, other official song), but more often than not, the only music to accompany the 2010 matches was some sub-Lion King, “African”-sounding stock music or the incessant, B-flat droning of vuvuzelas.

The flashing brilliance of the latest BLK JKS EP, however, would have been much more appropriate. Maintaining the group’s ability to weave the percussive and structural elements of the music of their South African home with a fiery streak of experimental independence, ZOL! represents everything the folks at FIFA want to project with the World Cup – a heritage-rich and forward-looking combination of race-blindness and home-country pride. And shit, if there’s a better stadium chant than “ZOL!” I have yet to hear it. (If, of course, your local stadium loves anthems about getting high.)

But that’s not where this EP begins and ends; BLK JKS are such a joy to listen to because they’re constantly surprising and completely discontent with being “that South African indie rock band.” There’s absolutely no way to expect a track like “Paradise,” which mushes together waves of Crimson-esque guitar squall, shuffle-jazz vocal lines, and brutal, arrhythmic drumming to great effect. That the band alights on moments like this in their explosive and improvisational live shows is a big reason why, even on the six songs here (one of which is a demo), there’s a feeling of intense discovery and organic innovation. Sure, there are those occasional “African”-sounding rhythms, but there’s a whole lot more too, and if those World Cup organizers wanted to paint a picture out of something more realistic than elephants and schoolchildren, they couldn’t have done much better than looking at the BLK JKS.

First appeared July 19, 2010 at Blurt-Online.com.

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