Michael Franti sounds wounded. After two terms of executive-level mendacity and exploitation raining down like so many body blows on the politically aware singer (and anyone else troubled enough to pay attention), it’s little wonder Franti penned a tune on this 2006 release titled “I Know I’m Not Alone.” But that phrase—also shared by a film Franti shot in the Middle East—is less assertion than question.
Franti’s vulnerability appeared on earlier albums so it’s no surprise to hear it again on Yell Fire!
Still, the title track’s incitement is more akin to what many fans will come looking to hear: incendiary indictments of “F-15 homicide bombers” and “pop-a-pill culture” egging on the righteously indignant with sanctified beat box musicality.
The main motif of the album, though, is less hip-hop than reggae. While the latter genre can hold its own in speaking truth to the sour, the album’s bouncy bass lines and Caribbean inflection mostly quiet Franti’s baritone rap. And with the heat under his Jeremiah-like lamentations reduced, Yell Fire!
tends to simmer more than sizzle.
Maybe less scalding is what the nation needs. Franti’s fans, however, might rather light a fire than point one out.
Michael Franti and Spearhead play the Wilma Theatre Thursday, March 27, at 8 PM. The show is sold out.