OPM – Golden State of Mind
Suburban Noize (9/2/08)
Reggae (Dub / Ska) / Alternative / Rap
It seems strange to say that a group of tattooed white boys could play reggae and be genuine, but sincerity is the name of OPM’s game. On Golden State of Mind, these guys make absolutely no pose for what they are. They spin yarns about partying and smoking weed over island grooves informed by punk and hip-hop, under a blanket of skin art and skater chic gear—they’re like understudies to Kottonmouth Kings.
The idiom in which a group like OPM could thrive probably died out in 2000 or so, but the band seems genuinely unconcerned with fitting into the current skurban-emo zeitgeist. They’re unapologetic mooks, but the catch is, they have a grasp on melody and mood to which the average stoner-frat douchebags can’t even aspire. Very few artists (American or Jamaican) who take their cues from reggae have swung as hard for the fences as OPM do on Golden State of Mind.
The first few tracks are dub-soaked and purely melody-driven. Seeing the band members on the back of this record, I generally assumed that they’d be 90-percent a punk band in the CKY mode, with a few cursory dropout beats and upstrokes to fake some reggae riddim (the tattoos and slouchy pose, plus the Cali-centric themery and Dia de los Muertos inspired cover art seemed to indicate one of the countless Skunk Records posers that popped up after Sublime broke). I wasn’t expecting melodic dub that isn’t concerned with pose or blind aggression. After the scratchy 2-tone influenced opener “Feel the Vibration”, OPM make the bold move of putting a light melodic track early on in their record: “Family & Friends” stands like a gamut, daring any Slightly Stoopid fans to take a chance on a song that could easily be by Sugar Ray. “Runaway” is drenched in reverb and has an arena-sized sing-along chorus that captures a cool young-love-on-the-run vibe; put this on at sunset after you and your betrothed have finished a his-and-hers skate sesh and spark up a blunt for optimum mood.
Any primarily Caucasian act repping the Jamaican style needs at least one song per record extolling the virtues of cannabis—OPM’s “Tell Me What You Want” has a sick rhyme scheme and a rolling riff that carries the whole track. While non-smokers aren’t going to appreciate the lyrical message, it’s undeniable that a groove is present. For those who prefer their highs ingested nasally, OPM mix dancehall and geek-rap à la Gym Class Heroes on “Dirty White”. Guests abound on this record: fellow Suburban Noize rapper Big B appears on almost half the tracks, Sen Dog of Cypress Hill assists on the requisite gangsta brag “Shoot ‘Em Up”, Pato Banton on the outcast anthem “Square Peg”, and Northwestern rap atrocity The Dirtball on the clubby, drab “Like That”. Other standouts are the hypersexual porno-dub “Honey” and the stoner rock tinged “Addicted”.
It’s been said that one of the worst things to happen to rock is culturalization—the broader the sphere of influence, the less real a band seems. In an era where every hick from here to Frog Balls, Arkansas, can hop on the Internet and hear almost anything ever recorded, pretty much everyone is culturalized. The only way a band can keep its music pure without choking under the weight of pretension and influence is to take a genre and crawl inside it, trading any semblance of shame or marketability for the standpoint that if you like a style, you should try and make the best songs of that genre possible. While OPM don’t stand much of a chance of breaking wider than the pre-existing trustafarian fanbase that other white reggae-ish bands enjoy, anyone who already drinks that particular Kool-Aid should check out Golden State of Mind. You’ll find a melodic and tuneful act that knows exactly who they are and aspires only to be the best of those parameters. You also might find the best reggae-rock mashup since Sublime.
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