FANTASTIC NEGRITO — PLEASE DON’T BE DEAD

Rating: 4.5/5
Release date: June 15, 2018

Fantastic Negrito, with his Please Don’t Be Dead, is a fantastic, nonsensical combination of Jimi Hendrix, Lenny Kravitz, Gary Clark Jr., and Ursula from The Little Mermaid. There is so much packed into this 38-minute dive into old-school rock and blues, from the high energy opening track, “Plastic Hamburgers,” to “A Boy Named Andrew,” which sounds like the coolest Jewish folk song you’ll ever hear.

But, first, let’s just take a minute with this track list:

  1. Plastic Hamburgers
  2. Bad Guy Necessaity
  3. A Letter To Fear
  4. A Boy Named Andrew
  5. Transgender Biscuits
  6. The Suit That Won’t Come Off
  7. A Cold November Street
  8. The Duffer
  9. Dark Windows
  10. Never Give Up
  11. Bullshit Anthem

This is how you title tracks. “Transgender Biscuits,” by far my favorite title, is also arguably the best track of the bunch. It’s an anthem for the “other,” and even though Fantastic Negrito is middle-aged, “Transgender Biscuits” gets to the heart of millennial quandries: the verses are just lists of reasons he got fired, such as “because I’m a woman,” “because I’m Asian,” “because I’m Muslim,” and, of course, “because I’m an asshole.” But, also, “because I’m a white man,” which makes this track relatable to anyone who just doesn’t quite fit in: it’s not just a social justice rant; it’s a human condition ballad.

Negrito writes in such a way that it’s easy to glean the message of his lyrics while still letting yourself be encapsulated by the music. You don’t catch every word or every riff, but it all fits together into this very well-thought-out, very well-pieced-together cross-stitch of blues.

“Bad Guy Necessity” tells the “story of Benny Walker, the greatest hater of all time.” As the second track, it opens the album with a tone of wariness; the whole album reads as a cautionary tale, and, when we get to the end, we meet “Bullshit Anthem,” which intones over and over, “take that bullshit, turn it into good shit.” The album doesn’t tell a specific story, but there’s a golden theme thread that runs through each second.

The real feat here, though, is that there’s really only one “slow song” on this album — “Dark Windows,” which is infiltratingly sultry — but the rest of the tracks never get trite. Each one is completely distinguishable from the last in tone, feeling, content, and the way it makes you want to dance, from head-banging to heel-toe-ing.

A true beauty hidden behind the current pop-music landscape, Please Don’t Be Dead is the plea for honesty and expression that the world needs right now.

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