Some people might remember that Rainbow Arabia appeared a couple of years ago back at the height of Brooklyn-mania: those psychedelic, world music-inspired offerings helped to place Rainbow Arabia in some sort of context. They subsequently had an EP out, but then disappeared without trace until this year, when their contemporaries MGMT have turned their back on psychedelic-electro and Yeasayer moved from global village to the world of wonky pop. Yet the husband and wife team that make up Rainbow Arabia don’t seem to have moved on.
This isn’t actually a bad thing: somehow the fact that they don’t sound any more musically developed or mature than before is somewhat admirable in some ways. At least they haven’t abandoned the plan, and it’s almost refreshing to hear a band that have actually plowed on with the original idea rather than trying to either sound more “edgy” or more “accessible”. It helps that they have an easy sound to get into in the first place: the opener and title track works on a simple yet catchy, West-African inspired call and response structure featuring some nifty Caribbean guitar. It isn’t all about what came from across the pond though. ‘Without You’ is simply a nicely crafted 80s pop song that takes some inspiration from ABBA in its vocal performance while ‘Blind’ moves more into the realms of techno with highlights of reggae.
In some ways the most striking part of this album is the massive range of vocal styles that singer Tiffany Preston takes on: one minute she’s chanting on songs like ‘Hai’ and the next she sounds just that little bit like Cyndi Lauper on ‘Jungle Bear’ (a track that is otherwise quite in-your-face in its vision). Comparisons with Lauper might not float everyone’s boat, but actually using a slightly more hushed and less tribal tone on this song seems to stop it from being too overpowering altogether. Tiffany steers the album in the right direction when the random mish-mash of genres might threaten to tear this album limb from limb.
Boys and Diamonds might seem like a jumble of ideas clumsily put together, put the clue to what the band are trying to achieve sits in their name: Rainbow Arabia suggests something magical in its diversity while trying to draw influence from a variety of other cultures. If that was their mission statement then they certainly would have succeeded, although occasionally it seems as if the whole thing could simple crumble away at any minute and sometimes the variety is almost too much to handle in one album. Still, you have to give them some brownie points for being so audacious. Few bands would try and do something so diverse now.
7 OUT OF 10
This article appears in Faux Magazine Online