James Pants: Welcome
Stones Throw

Open James Pants' closet and you may find yourself blinded by the multi-hued wardrobe. Tackling a rich potpourri of styles on sixteen cuts in largely convincing manner, the producer proves on Welcome that he's eminently capable of stepping beyond the shadow of Stones Throw head honcho Peanut Butter Wolf. James brings his raw shout and falsetto (abetted by singers Deon Davis and Gary Davis on three songs) and instrumental versatility (drums, keys, guitar) to smatterings of ‘80s-styled soul, funk, punk, electro, and synth-pop. We're treated to an explosive funk overture (“Theme From Paris”), robotic synth-pop (“My Tree”), and bleepy rumble that sounds like Pants riffing on Matthew Dear (“Dragonslayer”). “Crystal Lite” offers skanky synth-funk of an ‘80s vintage boosted by Deon's croon (“Baby, why you trippin' on me?”), while “Cosmic Rapp” wends a serpentine electro-funk path through a maze of drum-machine beats, vocoders, and handclaps. Best of all, “We're Through” drapes irresistible hooks over a snappy funk groove. Squeezing sixteen tunes into forty-two minutes means that even when a less satisfying track appears (e.g., the guitar-fueled banger “Finger On The Knife” or the B52s-meets-New York Dolls slam of “My Girl,” which seems little more than a lo-fi punk diversion) the moment passes quickly before we're onto something considerably tastier, like the soul-funk jams “Ka$h” and “Good Things.”

June 2008