Aesthetic is big business in the City Of Angels, so it’s smart to be skeptical of any artist flying the throwback banner. Fitz And The Tantrums are the blue-eyed response to the kind of rip-roaring stadium soul that Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings trade in, but while the band’s cross-town rival Mayer Hawthorne serves up his reheated R&B with a cool wink, these Angelenos act as if the three decades that followed the ’70s never happened at all. That should be a good thing. All that honking sax, burbling bass, soul-clapping, and throat-searing sounds great on the Tantrums’ early buzz-builder, “Breakin’ The Chains Of Love,” but replicated 10 times over the span of 10 songs, it’s worrisome. Doesn’t Fitz know that his band, as bathetic and actorly as it is on the titular track, can’t help but sound a little like Sonny And Cher? Or that it’s plain wrong for a white guy to sing things like “Daddy just walked out / Mama raisin’ family” while so joyously and irreverently aping Marvin Gaye? (See “Dear Mr. President.”) Make no mistake—Fitz and his Tantrums are a great time, but so is Maroon 5, and that more maligned act might well have made this exact album, had vintage soul been trendy in 2002.
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