You have to feel sorry for Flea these days. Well, not that sorry. He’s still a beloved bass icon and worth millions. But considering I’m With You, the abysmal new Red Hot Chili Peppers album, the dude’s talents have been wasted. Luckily British people still find interesting things for him to do. Last year, Thom Yorke recruited him for his Atoms for Peace band and more recently, Blur/Gorillaz headhoncho Damon Albarn cooked up a project with Flea and Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen, dubiously dubbed Rocketjuice and the Moon. (We’ll just call ’em the Juice from here on out.)
Though the trio reportedly recorded a full album, due out sometime next year, no one really heard anything from them until this past weekend, when they debuted the Juice project in the U.K. and Marseilles, France. The band posted official live recordings from the France show to YouTube, confirming the existence of actual songs.
Fans of Albarn’s the Good, the Bad & the Queen project (which also featured Allen) will gravitate towards Rocketjuice more than they would, say, Gorillaz or Blur. The Juice is mostly a blend of Afro-beats, organs and horns with a dose of hip-hop throughout. As the Telegraph points out, the live band includes DJ Theo Parish, a brass section, Kelan Phil Cohran (a veteran of the Sun Ra Arkestra), and vocalist Fatoumata Diawara, a Malian singer that Albarn’s taken a shine to.
All of this talent, young and old, jives well with Flea. The music focuses more on grabbing a gnarly funk beat and sticking to it. It’s nothing that complicated, but while the Peppers are relatively stuck in pop-rock song structures, Juice songs like “Damn,” “The Moon” and “Here We Go” sound like spontaneity is a driving element, even if Flea’s just a groove man. Also, he probably had a better time with these sessions than with anything he’s recorded in a while. Just a hunch. [Listen to Rocketjuice and the Moon here.]