You Can’t Stop The Bum Rush, by Len
If you are familiar with obscure 90’s pop music like I am, you likely remember one of the classic one-hit wonders of the end of the decade, Len, who are remembered for their quirky but lovely song “Steal My Sunshine.” Almost no one knows any of their other songs, but they did have a full album that their hit single was included on, and one of the music channels I listen to recommended that I take a listen to the album because it was a lot more diverse than expected. This is a challenge I took to heart, and so I decided to listen to the album–it comes in at an efficient 44 minutes for 12 songs, not a long listen at all, and I have to agree that diverse is certainly the most obvious thing that can be said about the sound of Len on this album, and while this is as very good thing for me as a listener, it may not have been a good thing for their career.
The album begins, understandably enough, with the enjoyable “Steal My Sunshine,” a classic piece of late 90’s pop that holds up very well more than two decades later. It is what is after this single that makes this album so striking and diverse. Second track “Cryptik Souls Crew,” is full of hip-hop, something that continues throughout the album, serving as a hype track to introduce the group as a whole. “Man Of The Year,” then continues with some old school hip hop elements while also adding some dance pop to the mix. “Beautiful Day,” contains some excellent lines by Biz Markie while also continuing the hip hop trend. Then “The Hard Disk Approach” adds what I can only describe as a Kraftwerkesque dance pop lyric. “Hot Rod Monster Jam” switches to rap-rock approach with more record scratches, rap verses, and spoken word sections and then an old-fashioned outro. “Cold Chillin'” offers an example of party pop-rap with multiple rappers as well as an enjoyable hook. “Feelin’ Alright” then expresses a complex feeling of ennui and frustration in a rock track with a fuzzy guitar solo. “Cheeky Bugger” is a short and odd pop rock song about dealing with anger and frustration. “Big Meanie” is an insult track to a titular big meanie that has gorgeous pop instrumentation that sounds like it could have come from a Jem album. “June Bug” then follows this with a jazzy song from the group’s female lead singer that is surprisingly reflective and also gorgeous. “Crazy Cause I Believe” (Early Morning Sunshine)” then turns into a rousing soul number about staying true to oneself and overcoming the difficult times, returning to the themes of sunshine that the album began with.
One of the more interesting aspects of this album is the way that odd and striking outros serve as a unifying theme in an otherwise extremely diverse album. Quite a few of the songs also include tracks that include enthusiastic crowd noise to give this album a “live” feel and indicate the enthusiasm of a devoted concert audience. This is an album that shows Len to be a very diverse group, with plenty of hip hop, pop, rap, jazz, soul, and dance elements all mixed together. Despite these diverse musical elements, the album as a whole has a strong tenor of seeking to rise above life’s troubles and frustrations, as these appear over and over again throughout the songs, dealt with in a variety of different ways, with a high degree of competence and energy and personality. This is a quirky album, and an album that a music label would likely be at a loss to promote. This song feels like it should have had more hits, but it did not, remaining an obscure gem that rewards the listener who comes to this with a wide enjoyment of multiple genres.