Some Six months after the official release party at Fabrik45 on the Hochstadenring the new Steal a Taxi CD is finally on my CD player. That must set a new high in anticipation building, something SAT’s mentors ‘Band Camp’ would have probably recommended as a marketing ploy even. Six whole months to build expectations. So, is ‘You Want What You Don’t Want’ as good as I’d hoped? Is it as good as it could be? Should you even care?
Yes, no and yes are my short answers – here’s why…
‘Time’ isn’t just a track from the new SAT CD, it’s also a key element to considering the music recorded on it. Six months is a long time in a band’s development and listening to ‘YWWYDW’ proves it dramatically. It’s true that the opening track on this CD is a feast of fat rhythm and funky back beat, it’s also true that the sensual, sinuous vocal of Makeda ensures this and every track has class. It’s very listenable indeed, but I would love it to have a bit more tribal attack, particularly from the drums. To really hit between the eyes in the way that it did when played live at the Harmonie just a month ago now.
‘Dirty Shoes’ does have that more ‘in your face’ rhythm – the bass on here especially is stand-out. There’s some 70’s style synth popping up in the background too and this would have been great to dance too at the Funky Fox Club in Portsmouth in my youth! I can imagine a ‘Disco Mix’ version of this number with at least five minutes of just the synth and bass hopping along. Donna Summer lives! I love this so much that my only complaint is – it’s too short! How about that disco/extended play version people?
There’s nothing more to say about ‘Time’ other than it is perfect. However good this band becomes, this song won’t sound any better than it does now. Makeda’s vocals walk a perfect line between vulnerability and heartbreak. In interview she describes her lyric writing as a blend of ‘Growing pains and Liebeskummer’. Well, just maybe this number will be done better one day – at the Royal Albert Hall with an orchestral backing. In the meantime this is as good as Steal a Taxi get, and it’s very good indeed.
Leaping forward to the next track, Rapunzel, and it’s ‘Liebeskummer’ time again with a super number that would possibly be a tick more super if it was recorded again now, only a few months down the line. There was an extra edge to this at the Harmonie, born I suspect out of that time spent at Band Camp where Makeda admitted to being brought virtually to tears emotionally through the tuition received.
Moving on and ‘I don’t think so’ actually does move along, rumbling like a steam train heading out of the station. A busy back-beat rhythm pushes it along nicely and matches perfectly the pushy, self-assured lyrics. If I’m picky (and I am!) I’d love to hear more push from the drum here in the mix though to really shift up to top gear.
‘Distance’ has a touch of that empty desolation groove that bands like the Police did so well. For some reason the vocal makes me think of early Debbie Harry. Again heavily built around an excellent synthesizer backing (Philipp Sutter?) which makes me wonder why the band doesn’t get a keyboard player in full time? When it’s used on this disc it certainly fills in the sound well. Not that the rhythm section doesn’t do a creditable job, Thomas Raatz on bass works hard and since his replacement, Carlos Ricaurte is producing I would expect the rhythm section not to be shortchanged sonically. Jan Hubner’s drumming is also solid even if I find the tone rather muddied on the disc.
So there you are. Back to my questions: As good as I’d hoped? Yes indeed. As good as it could be? Since Band Camp and the Harmonie show I think the band could better these versions already – not perhaps in terms of musical ability, but in terms of emotion and attack. And should you even care? Wouldn’t it be nice to stick two fingers up to the people making life for musicians in Bonn so hard these days by having a band that has success worldwide?
The best news of all is that this is by no means as good as Steal A Taxi can get. For sure, it’s an excellent album of well crafted funky Pop songs which could and should open the door to a record deal that puts them in a top studio, with a top producer and a support slot that puts them internationally on the map.
“A dream for me would be to play at the Royal Albert Hall” smiled Makeda in an interview before the Harmonie show in October. There’s a little matter of quantity where the music is concerned right now of course. Six songs does not a full CD make – or at least it didn’t in my youth A couple of well sought out cover versions (and maybe that disco version extended play!) would have at least pushed the running time up a bit more past the current 22 minutes. If SAT can keep up the quality of what’s on offer here though this band will be up to stealing London Taxi’s before too long. Heck, maybe the next disc will be so good they’ll have a limousine and won’t have to! Simply put: If you love silky smooth vocals and your Pop music on the funky side you’ll love Steal a Taxi.