Review: Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad – Steady

Review: Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad – Steady

Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad – Steady
Track Listing:
1.) Whatever Cost
2.) Steady
3.) Wolf At The Door
4.) Move
5.) Take Your Place
6.) Mr. Cop
7.) Hurt Up Your Brother
8.) Solution
9.) .45
10.) Nice Feeling
11.) Home
12.) Not The Fool
13.) Favorite Song

The Pier Album Rating:

Release Date: Sept 30, 2014
Record Label: Easy Star Records
Official Website: Giant Panda Website

Group Background:
Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad (GPGDS) is known for folding the aesthetics of the jamband scene into the structures of reggae. In the live setting, the band performs extended jams, while their previous studio albums have blended roots reggae with psychedelia (In These Times, 2012) or diverged from the genre completely, journeying into straight Americana (Country, 2012). On STEADY, the band’s fourth studio album (and first on Easy Star Records), GPGDS has synthesized their approach by weaving traditional folk instrumentation into a foundation of reggae, with arrangements that let the reggae breathe in a non-traditional way. While STEADY may not be the first record to find inspiration in both old time Appalachia and ‘70s Jamaica, it may be the best.

Album Review:
Its not very often that you get to review a record that you listen to and truly love, so I’m gonna gush a little bit. From the downbeat of Steady, I could tell the GPGDS release was going to be an enjoyable listen and have to say my fondness for the album only grew after multiple listens.

To be honest, I was pleasantly blown away. This may be one of the best sounding Reggae albums I have heard in a long time, and after researching its producers and the road the band took to get to Steady, a clear picture began to emerge.

This is what good music is supposed to do, peek the interest of all senses, rather than just hearing, but sight, smell “….smells like ganja”. Steady Has so much life living in its tracks, something hard to authentically weave into a recording, but GPGDS has managed to make a record that sounds fucking amazing and still sounds like a live band. Easily stated, Steady Was captured… Not recorded. I am not saying that the band just setup and recorded live, what I mean is that this feels like a total maturation of a group into an original sound at the top of their game. This is not to downplay the production, it takes talent to produce and capture the essence of a band and Craig Welsch and company nail it. GPGDS seemingly have claimed their place in the legacy of Northeastern US Reggae bands that are bringing authentic Roots music to the masses.

Steady opens up with the upbeat “Whatever Cost”, which really is about integrity and being adamant in beliefs of truth and freedom in the face of adversity, which is echoed in one way or another through various parts in the album. Leading into the title track “Steady”, a bubbling love song with a airy melody co-produced by Danny Kalb (the Green, Jack Johnson, Ben Harper). The ska song “Wolf At The Door”, reminds us to be the change we want to see in the world, actually to believe so hard that we see it in our minds! It’s about getting the shit out of our own way that prevents us from achieving everything we want in our lives. Such a powerful message in that simple idea.

“Move” switches gears and gets low – there is something about how the bass line and vocals pair up in the verses on this track that I really dig and reminds me of early Wailers recordings where the bass acts just as melodically relevant as rhythmically.

“Take Your Place” is hands down one of the best collaborations I have heard in this scene for a long time. Ranking Joe, a Jamacian Deejay that has been in the game for forty plus years and massive influence to modern Jamaican artists, brings his unique toasting style and delivers solidly.

“Mr. Cop” and it’s pro ganja lyrics are for sure going to be a fan favorite, while “Hurt Up Your Brother continues the positive message of GPGDS. Both songs take it to the echo chamber for sections giving room for Dubsmith – Craig Welsch to get a little creative. Up next is “Solution”, a soulfully sung burner of a tune.

“.45” is where you really hear the Americana influence of GPGDS, I mean its almost like a Gospel Revival tune – with a screaming harmonica and pedal steel guitar that would make any bluesman smile. “Home” further pulls from the Americana influence of GPGDS with the inclusion of the Banjo and a chorus that could have been pulled from Paul Simons “Graceland”.

GPGDS are very talented as a group, individually as well, but I want to give some shine to an instrument we seldom give shine too. The keyboards (Piano, Clavinet, Organ, Vox Organ, etc.) on this album are absolutely amazing and crucial to the sound of this recording. They occupy such a large part of the make up of these songs and really are incredible. There is so much feel, vibe and color being produced here, whether it is as an extension of the bass, carrying melody, normally played by horns, or opening the pocket with the bubble and skank. The vocals range from Doo-wop and Soul to Rock Steady and toasting while maintaining melodic perfection all the way through, on top of a rhythm section that could aptly be described as steady and heavy.

Steady is comprised of great songs, played exceptionally well, captured through great equipment by a great producer taking everything and mixing it into an album that will stand the test of time as it sits at the top of some of the best records released in 2014!

Written & Reviewed By: Tommy Dubs (of A Sunny Place For Shady People)

[Editors Note: All reviews are reflective of the album in it’s entirety, from start to finish. These reviews are the honest opinion of each writer/reviewer expressing their feedback as a genuine fan of the music. Each star rating reflects their review of the album, NOT the band. Music is subjective. Regardless of the review or star rating, we encourage you to listen to the music yourself & form your own opinion. Spread the awareness of all music in its art & contribution]