The Indiana R&B revivalists pack a compositional punch and lyrics that too often stray into misogyny. Info/tix
Bloomington, Indiana retro-soul outfit Durand Jones & The Indications began as a collaboration between writer and drummer Aaron Frazer and guitarist Blake Rhein. In 2012, they crossed paths with vocalist and Louisiana native Jones at Indiana University, where Jones was studying music. Their self-titled album was originally released in 2016 on Ohio soul label Colemine Records. On this tour, the band is celebrating a re-released, deluxe version of that record.
The opening track, "Make A Change," is arguably the strongest on the album. Frazer's boomy kick drum sets the groove of the track and quickly, with the clash and ring of his cymbal, welcomes Kyle Houpt's funky bass line. Jones delivers powerful, hard-hitting vocals at the chorus with catchy, woodwind-enhanced flourishes answering his every punch. Disappointingly, the song's narrative calls out a single mother and sex-worker, and there's no grounding evidence that the song reflects the experience of a real person rather than a cringe-worthy trope: Jones declares that "she got to make a change" and "you gotta love yourself." The track "Groovy Baby" provides a similarly uncomfortable narrative that at best is racy at worst objectifying and hypermasculine. Lines like "Come on / I know you want me / Come on baby and shake it for me now / Come on and shake it / Shake it for papa" feel domineering, gross, and unproductive.
While band is marketed as an accompaniment to Jones' vocal talent, two tracks capture the compositional strength of the Indications alone. For instance, "Is It Any Wonder?" showcases Frazer's impressive falsetto, perhaps paying homage to Motown vocalist Smokey Robinson in a mellow love-making song. Aside from the obvious vocal difference between Frazer and Jones, this track offers a smoother, sweeter dimension not found elsewhere on the album. The closing track, "Tuck 'N' Roll," omits vocal melody and spotlights the instrumental acumen behind the frontman, especially in the form of keyboard player Justin Huber's playful, organ-style phrases. The band has a compositional depth that feels complete with or without Jones.
The Indications' re-released album is masterfully produced, easy on the ears, and deserves as much praise as any other record from a young R&B-revival outfit. However, lyrically the album falls short with misogynist narratives, overused rhymes, and motifs that lack the poetic depth and spirit of its predecessors Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding. The written narratives about the band focus on Jones' journey to the group and emphasize his vital role as if he is the project's mastermind or the originator of the collective. In reality, it seems like Jones was just the missing piece to validate The Indications' place in contemporary soul music. —Katie Richards