Listening to Okeeblow, the final release on Mike D's now-defunct label, Grand Royal, is akin to sampling an audiophile's eclectic mix of son-of-the-'70s classic-hit favorites or a nostalgic Rhino Records best of the name-your-era compilation. The cover features a photo of a fellow hangin' on the sun-drenched corner of Fourth Street and Main in front of Melody Records, a few LPs tucked under his arm. That's our hero, singer-songwriter, producer, and supposed wunderkind Marty James, a goofy, easygoing tune freak from beatnicky Chico, California. When Marty shops for the latest bass-heavy 12-inch or collector's vinyl, he goes to the most claustrophobic joint in town, with bins of prehistorically priced discs packed tight from here to there. This guy knows his roots. Surely he strives to fill that space-sucking vacuum between Beck and Jamiroquai, walking around with a beat-counting head-bob, trying out his humorous, home-styled hip-hop lyrics ("I enjoy long walks by the bay/My other interests are pornographic sex, and snapping mic necks, and Duran Duran's "The Reflex'") in his natural, syncopated staccato. It's all laid over the glossy-fresh, mainstream-radio pop of old, from the easier funkables of Sly and the Family Stone to the scraggly road that leads from the weakest Fleetwood Mac offerings and the sunny pop of Smashmouth. With the standard knob-hopping, loops, beats, guitar, keys, bass, and turntables, Scapegoat Wax deep-funk-a-fries this chicken in a large-ass pan using recycled cooking oil. Connoisseurs beware.
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A standard for the "fresh but familiar" cliché cache, Okeeblow is packed with safe, feel-good, cereal-box fad-pop ready-made for cutout bins nationwide. The album mixes syrupy-toned suburban grooves (the infectiously fun first single, "Aisle 10 [Hello Allison]"); electro-beat hip-hop ("Eardrum"); tired, sanguine, striving-for-poignancy sunshine-soul from the '70s ("Crawling," "Space to Share"); and lighthearted Sublime doobie-reggae of the '90s ("Almost Fine"). Okeeblow wants to have fun, but this release may not be remembered for anything more significant than the dubious "last release of" prefix. With perhaps a pair of semihits and too many skip-worthy tracks, Okeeblow should soon be available in the reduced rack, so you'll be able to sing along with "Hello Allison" all you want.