Sam Huber’s “Confused” Reviewed
There Is a reason why Sam Huber sounds fully formed and also embryonic on his new album, Confused, released today, and that is because he is an old school funk master from the early 00s with a Sinatra in his soul and a David Bowie (or do I mean David Byrne) in his mix, pushing forward in a genre meld of his own making. From stardom in his hometown of Helsinki, he has delved vigorously at the soul rebel borders in New York City, till Confused arrives as a less confusing and more form dissolving modern rock album.
Confused? From the first song, “Memories Of The Past,” with its “future funk sound” hook, on a sound with a guitar lick straight outta Talking Heads burning down funk, to the centerpiece modern rap and hip hop trap vibe “Turn Around” featuring the always estimable J Swizz rapping a verse and Huber sounding more like Busta Rhymes than Frank Sinatra. Still Confused? Try “Little By Little” where Huber channels Teddy Pendergrass, Frank Sinatra, and David Bowie, for a full-fledged Station To Station type ballad that sinks its teeth hard into heartbreak and collapses onto its knees soaked in gin and misery.
Confused is a moving target of an album, and if you are coming in late, if you don’t know Huber’s history with Finland funketeers Eternal Erections. this might be a who the hell is this guy? moment, it’s like there should be ten steps before he gets to cover, in suitably sublime fashion, “Heaven”. But even if you do know the artist formerly known as Rick Lover, the only clue you’d have is that he could always sing. Eternal Erection are straight up funk guys, they moved on their stomach, they were always all about the groove. But on Confused, working with one of the great rock bands of this particular moment, the True Groove All Stars, he has maneuvered a little past straight up funk and into the realm of art rock. Think of, not Fear Of Music, but Speaking In Tongues, think of Young Americans, songs that seem to keep on pushing at the edge of their contours, the loaded “Back On The Bus,” which has a sludgy sink to its groove, followed quickly by the :36 second answer to the :00 second “There’s A Riot Going On,” “Where’s The Riot”. By the time you reach “Measure By Measure” George Harrison has risen up to give the album some Raja music to completely confound you. The guitar solo on “Back Of The Bus” is all Santana firefight, it burns itself down to ashes around you.
Another name I’ve been hearing when it comes to Huber is Prince, though I don’t quite get that myself. Any funk rock band that lives on its bass is channeling Larry Graham, and this is crossover artiness a la Fresh. But what does it mean when every other word is a reference to another band? It means Confused sound like itself and we don’t know what itself is. Meanwhile, we keep wondering where it all comes from. One part tribute to future funk past, one part hero worship for New York City, one part Global Soul on the move, one part Eurotrash slumming, and all parts all funk all the time, Sam Huber is baffling and what’s most baffling is how it all works together. Man, are you in for a treat.