Good Lucky Killer (Enemy)

Royal Crescent Mob

By Bob Bahr

As longtime, rabid Royal Crescent Mob fan, it's hard to not be disappointed by Good Lucky Killer.

Not that the Mob's newest album is terrible. It's just that it seems to mark a regression from the odd pop they produced for Sire/Warner Bros. on 1989's Spin the World and 1991's Midnight Rose's. Ignore the inclusion of LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out" and a few other hip-hop elements, and Good Lucky Killer could mistakenly be placed chronologically between the 1985 EP Land of Sugar and 1988's Omerta. It's groove-oriented rather than song-driven, and the songwriting seems more amateurish than unpretentious. Killer is sufficiently funky, but RC Mob fans know just how much further the band can go.

The lack of major label polish may explain the punchless feel of the production. How much better would "Hard Drivin' Man" and "Cyclone Girl" be with hard-hitting, hooky choruses? Meanwhile, songs such as "All Bottled Up" and "Mob Stew" are the kind of relentless groove that made "Get on the Bus" a powerhouse. The Mob's noisy version of "Mama Said Knock You Out" is muscly, intense and almost too aggressive to slink to. It would make a nice B-side to Public Enemy and Anthrax's collaboration on "Bring Tha Noize."

The freshest aspect of this year's Mob is B's guitar playing, which seems to take some of the spotlight that in the past has shone primarily on vocalist David Ellison and bassist Harold Chichester. On the good foot, that means some innovative guitar solos and a few songs that trail off in a hypnotic cudgeling of six-string jam. On the bad foot, B cops some licks from funk and rock history that everyone will recall.

The Royal Crescent Mob has always been a synthesis of Ohio Players-funk and noisy rock, with Ellison's dippy lyrics and decidedly odd phrasing moving the music into a box by itself. But the songwriting seems secondary here, and even is poorly done in some places. "Dive" sounds like it was written in the fog that inspired the cut "Bong Hits," while "Candy" and "That's the Way That It Goes" are boorish and simple compared to past glories.

The question the band (and the rest of the world) may be asking is, if a major label push can't get the Royal Crescent Mob over, what will?

Not Good Lucky Killer. Still, the world can always use a little more of that funky stuff. Even if the RC Mob is revisiting the past or treading water, their output is still functional in a listening and dancing capacity.