MARDI GRAS.BB - The Exile Itch

Mardi - The Exile Itch

11 songs
41:58 minutes
***** ****


It's been already a good three years since I first heard a Mardi album. Back then I couldn't really much to like about Heat, an album that was so forcedly crossover, combining soul, funk, rock and hip hop, that it seemed at times too much to digest. Early 2007 will see the release of The Exile Itch. Not that the band has been idle in between, as they released two more albums in 2004 and 2005.

This seventh album not only shows that the band around Doc Wenz (a specialist of venereal diseases, no kidding) and ex-Guru Guru bass player Reverend Krug (now playing the sousaphone) is one of the busiest around, but that they also love to reinvent themselves from album to album. Their last release The Mighty Three was a pure three-piece affair, an unusual setting for them, but on The Exile Itch, they are back as the big band (hence the original meaning of .bb in the band name) they used to be. Stripped of everything funk and hip hop, the ensemble delivers eleven soul songs packed into concise structures where form and content are respected equally. And if German Soul sounds like an oxymoron (understandable if you have so far only listened to the likes of Xavier Naidoo), then be prepared to hear a band that sounds like they have come straight from Louisiana, as if the Blues Brothers were playing a funeral march for the victims of hurricane Katrina.

At times festive, at times solemn, and sometimes even close to the tearful (Happy Boy's melody is probably unintentionally borrowed from FR David's Words), The Exile Itch is a truly suffering album full of artistic beauty and memorable songs that can only be played by musicians who have seen already the many facets of life. Therefore it's not a surprise that when it comes to aesthetics, Mardi's promo photos show not the most attractive band. But the beauty is hidden in the songs, and they just wait to be discovered.

The Exile Itch comes with a bonus DVD featuring an entire 90 minute concert filmed at the UT Connewitz in Leipzig and a small yellow book with a weird short story and an illuminating band history. If you haven't been familiar with Mardi yet, this generous package should be reason enough to check them out.

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