Bullfrog | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader


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There's been something of a large-band funk revival lately, with groups like Los Angeles's Breakestra and New York's Antibalas offering a flesh-and-blood answer to the loops-and-samples approach of studio-centric hip-hoppers. Bullfrog, a six-piece from Montreal, Quebec, flaunts laid-back grooves that frequently sound like a cross between Willie Bobo's funky Latin jazz and War's Latin jazz-tinged funk; on the band's self-titled full-length debut, on Ropeadope Records, only a few stretches—"Alright: Music for More Morning People," the second half of "Snakeskin"—pick up the tempo. Despite their often sleepy feel, Bullfrog's songs tend to be cheekier and more disjunctive than typical nu funk: "Snakeskin," for instance, interrupts its strutting Superfly groove by chopping between drum 'n' bass-ish stutter step and a frantic samba beat, then returns to a retooled version of the song in progress, now underpinned by a Brazilian rhythm. The band's DJ, Kid Koala, also makes his mark on the tune, manipulating a recording of uncertain origin—probably either a hummed vocal or a droning keyboard, like a mellotron—by pitch shifting, stopping and starting, and cutting up copies of it. On his own, Kid Koala is notable for records like 2000's excellent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which makes turntablism entertaining for people who can't tell a flare from a crab and couldn't care less. And he's not the group's only standout member: adenoidal vocalist Blurum 13, aka James Sobers, is charming and funny throughout the record—especially on "Reverse Psychology," where he scolds, "This is not a party song. . . . I don't want to see anybody dancing. . . . Put your hands down and be quiet." Wednesday, February 27, 8 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace; 773-478-4408.


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