Let me begin this review by addressing a glaring bias on my part. I’m not the biggest fan of Flea. I say this as a bassist and as someone who loves the work of dominant bass players such as John Entwistle, Jaco Pastorius, Colin Greenwood, etc. Something about his playing rubs me the wrong way. He’s very competent and I respect his hard work, but his overtly flashy playing always feels forced to me and has never impressed. His tone is also something I’ve heard in just about every other high school band. This may be because all of those bassists listen to Flea and are emulating him, but regardless he just isn’t my cup of tea.
That being said Rocket Juice & The Moon is a fantastic super group consisting of Damon Albarn (Gorillaz, Blur, TGTB&TQ), Tony Allen (Tony Allen=God of the drums), and Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers). Its most confident moments are found in Tony Allen’s drumming and Damon Albarn’s ear for melody; though the center of the band clearly resides with Tony Allen. The basic rhythm is laid back but on top of it Allen lays on an insane amount of flourishes. It’s as though Allen is playing two or three different rhythms at once, which made me rather confused about how to dance along and eventually I just started dancing like Thom Yorke (which isn’t a bad thing really). Meanwhile Albarn’s horn sections and his cutesy sounding key hooks fill what few holes Allen have left behind and sell the song (a trait found in much of Albarn’s work. Songs like Stylo from Gorillaz wouldn’t be all too impressive were it not for the vocal melodies). Albarn’s tones are very purposefully reminiscent of 70’s style funk bands like Parliament and Sun Ra making you feel like you’re running from the cops in Harlem while simultaneously flying to Jupiter.
With numerous African vocalists such as Manifest, Fatoumata Diawara and other contributors (The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble) Rocket Juice seemed to have a slight Gorillaz tinge to it. But it’d be a mistake to try and compare Rocket Juice to any of Albarn’s other projects. While songs like Hey, Shooter, Lolo (Manifest on Lolo is fantastic), and Follow-Fashion are solid tracks, if you try and compare it to TGTB&TQ or the first Gorillaz album you’ll find Rocket Juice rather lacking. There’s a fantastic and soothing groove all the way through the first half of the album. But after Check Out the album dips off (there’s a joke in there somewhere).
The strongest track is Poison, one of the few tracks that has Damon Albarn singing. Flea’s bass playing is quite bearable. The song has a slow swing and deep melancholic tone to it. It’s practically a The Good, The Bad, and The Queen song. Then Poisonis followed by the carnival tune Extinguished. The transition will make you face palm. Rocket Juice & The Moon is good, but it’s not a consistently solid piece like Demon Daysor TGTB&TQ. However, like I said before this may be an unfair comparison. There are parts of Rocket Juice that are just too cool. When tracks like The Unfadable hit their peak I found myself skipping back for another listen. Rocket Juice & The Moon isn’t perfect and at times somewhat boring, but there will be moments during the album where you find yourself saying, “Gorillaz who?”