At first, it seemed like the Lo Fis never even had a fair chance to make it in the U.S. When your vocalist leaves on the eve of your debut album's release, and what passes for the big beat community in America thinks you're a third-gen coattail rider, it's fair to say the odds are against you.
So, it's an enormous surprise that the reconstituted Allstars' sophomore turn moves beyond techno-rock clichés and succeeds as something grander. Oh, they still overload their songs with hedonistic mix-and-matches, hooks lifted from funk and rock sources, like the Fatboy's label cousins they very much are. Yet, in its finest moments, Don't Be Afraid distills the history of American rhythm and soul through the loving eyes and ears of Europeans who care, in a way no one in the dance community has tried before. The vocal turns by indie rock's finest soul singer, Greg Dulli (on "Somebody Needs You," an organ-based loverman tease), and Parliament/Funkadelic basszilla Bootsy Collins (doing "On the Pier," a psychedelic backwoods-dub sing-along) predictably hint at this. But throughout, you'll find the Jackson 5's exuberance, Joe Tex's hillbilly R&B, and Mystikal's azz-shakin' bounce -- not to mention blues references only historians and Outkast will get. Someone hook these limeys up with Timbaland . . . pronto!