LEE “SCRATCH” PERRY: Repentance [Narnack]

This legendarily eccentric dub-reggae producer has been steadily releasing albums since the early ’80s after he torched his Black Ark studio and fled Jamaica. However, it’s overwhelmingly Lee “Scratch” Perry’s work behind the mixing board in the ’70s that’s allowed him to pack clubs and festivals as a performer. Arguably, much of his solo material over the last quarter-century is no more disappointing than reggae itself has been since its ’70s heyday, which Perry contributed to mightily. It’s no small irony that Repentance is being heralded for its production, which isn’t by Perry, but by party-metal musician and motivational speaker Andrew WK. Of course, the degree to which the album works depends on the degree to which you can forget about all the amazing work Perry has already done. In fact, Repentance is a lot of fun. The naughty “Pum-Pum,” with its sexual moans and dime-store synth riffs, has the potential to be a club classic. In some ways, it’s trademark Perry, mixing schoolyard sex references with comments about Jesus. “Santa Claus” manages to mention Mickey Mouse, Judgment Day and, yes, Jesus; over a smart, hyper groove, he repeats these words and phrases over and over until, somehow, his randomness reveals its own sense. Not surprisingly, Repentance is least effective when Perry deals with straight reggae, as he does on “God Save His King.” There are simply too many superior grooves to be had to settle for this, both on this album and in Perry’s endless back catalog. []

—Bruce Miller