Alabama 3  MOR  *****

Reviewed by Andy Gill in 'The Independent'

07 September 2007

The title, as with most things about Alabama 3, should be taken with a pinch of salt, as just another example of the innate ambivalence with which they regard the world. How could it be otherwise, from a South London country-techno-funk combo that most Americans, at least, probably still believe is one of their own?

Their concerns remain pretty much the same as ever on M.O.R: an unholy communion of politics, religion, sex and drugs, in which indulgence and morality are held in precarious equilibrium, and presented via some of the most infectious, well-rooted grooves you'll hear all year. Hence their interest in the "Middle of the Road", a song that, as references to David Crosby, "desperado" and "life in the fast lane" make clear, is about the California cocaine cowboys of the Seventies epitomised by the likes of Crosby and The Eagles, whose delusions of revolutionary hippie principles were starkly at odds with their actual situation. "You think you're living on the edge," growls Larry Love, "but you're in the middle of the road" – albeit "going hell for leather" down the white line.

A similar conundrum afflicts the narrator of the sultry soul-jazz number "Fly", whose relationship is threatened by his preference for living on cloud nine, viewing life through a hedonist haze as his real environment deteriorates into a mess of cigarette burns and spilt booze. It's probably the same guy that reappears in the country-soul rocker "Lockdown", applying his own, more liberal attitude to a soused lover: "You're on lockdown, loaded, but I love you."

It's not all sex, drugs and booze, however. There's religion, in the form of "Holy Blood"; and of course there's death, the fourth cowboy of the country-music apocalypse, who rears his head in the murder ballad "The Doghouse Chronicles", and in a couple of cover versions. Jerry Reed's sly song about a Cajun alligator poacher, "Amos Moses", is an infectious, lolloping swamp boogie, while Gil Scott-Heron's "The Klan" is treated to an equally appropriate country makeover.

But the album's real aces are a pair of relatively straightforward dance cuts: "Work It (All Night Long)" is a hypnotic, loping groove in which rasping wah-wah guitar and quirky, squelching synth are stitched together seamlessly; and "Monday Don't Mean Anything to Me", in which charged brass stabs and fiery female backing vocals lend the groove a feverish dance propulsion comparable to Basement Jaxx.

Buy M.O.R here...