The first thing that will strike you about Blue Food’s debut full-length, Engines, is the same thing that ought to strike you about any quality funk-based record: the rhythm section. Without a doubt this Fort Lee, NJ septet can groove.
They start the album off right with the slick, percussive bassline on “Boogiemen,” around which the drums, guitar, horns and vocals all fall into place. The lyrics elaborate on what turns out to be a clever play on words with a subtle political bite and the track shows off Blue Food’s rock and roll influence in the powerful choruses. At over 5:30, the verses stroll leisurely by, demanding your attention for the choruses and the tasty saxophone solo that takes off with about a minute left.
Track four, “Waterwalking,” is a nice example of the lyrical jive that gives Engines a bit of extra juice and a nice intellectual layer not commonly associated with funk. On the musical side of things, the track wraps up in a creative display of plodding, whimsical dissonance when the bass and guitar play the same lick a half step away from one another while the horns flutter over top of the nonsense.
On that latter half of the record, Blue Food builds the tunes slowly, with lazy backbeats that work their way into big climaxes that wane and bring you down again. This feels like the group’s wheelhouse; they relish in squeezing a slow tempo for all its worth, then bringing it to a satisfying, hard rock crescendo and back down again.
Blue Food’s biggest strength can get in their way at times, however. When you’re playing live for people on a dance floor, it makes sense to keep grooving and keep the riff going. On a record, it lets the listener’s mind wander a bit. Some of the tracks, “Boogiemen” in particular since it’s the opener, just hang out a bit too late.
All things considered, Blue Food deftly combine meaty rock and roll with crisp funk and dashes of prog sensibilities to make Engines a formidable debut. A solid rhythm section and strong lead vocals are enhanced by great horns. There’s no question these guys can play.