Published Apr 08, 2016Ben Harper and his Innocent Criminals make their grand return to recorded music with Call It What It Is, an undeniably fun album that balances itself out with sombre, serious notes.
Starting on a quirky pop tone, "When Sex Was Dirty" sounds like a Joel Plaskett pop anthem. While the title track is more of a slow western tune, accentuated by piano and driven by lyrics that confront racism head-on. In the second verse, Harper name-drops the recent victims of American police brutality, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, "and so many, many more." It all leads up to the straightforward chorus, which gives the album both its title and central message: "Call it what it is / Murder." Harper's band name is more relevant now than ever.
"Shine" is the album's high point; the funky vibe and happy rhythm are reminiscent of 2007's Lifeline, sticking the landing with some catchy lyrics and a great guitar solo. "All That Has Grown" is a solemn, introspective song that will have you drifting off and thinking about life, while the band pulls a new trick out of their sleeves with "Pink Balloon," a mesmerizing alt-rock track that changes up the album nicely, leaving a fresh paved path for the finishing blues-and-soul-influenced tracks.
"Goodbye to You" puts the album to bed with a goodnight kiss and tiptoes quietly out of the room, a complete contrast to the opening track. Call It What It Is is resonant, the message delivered fervently.