Timing can be a bitch or a blessing. The LA band-as-collective Fool’s Gold releases their debut record of lithe, African-influenced dance-pop with a Hebrew slant on the heels of Vampire Weekend supremacy and a new album from Matisyahu. Valid or not, comparisons are inevitable, especially with the former. Such is the nature of music criticism and wonkery.
This is not really fair, though, as Fool’s Gold’s musical range and motivation are very different animals from these other bands. Yes, bassist/vocalist Luke Top sometimes makes an unfortunate choice by appearing to mimic a generic African patois, at least when he’s not singing in Hebrew, which he does on much of the record. But the music that Fool’s Gold makes is expertly woven into rich tapestries of poly-rhythms, percussion, horns, and spidery guitar lines. The album’s opening track, “Surprise Hotel,” is the band at its best, mellifluously and smartly embarking upon a journey through West African melodies. Indeed, Africa is the source for most of the record, but it’s not the only inspiration. “Poseidon” finds the band flirting with ‘80s indie-pop, something the members would most likely proudly acknowledge, as guitarist Lewis Pesacov cites The Smiths as one of his many influences.
Fool’s Gold goes way beyond Graceland as a reference point, and Luke Top’s nod to his Israeli roots is really not the same as an orthodox Jew doing dancehall reggae. So let’s let bygones be bygones and ignore recent events, because Fool’s Gold’s music offers too much pleasure to write off as just another drop in the bucket of popular trends.