Review — “Bringin’ the Boom Back” — Boombox Saints

reviewed by Jeff McAllister

Bringin’ the Boom Back is in many ways a crossroads album. East Coast inspired flows meet mellow West Coast beats; white-collar success imagery meets blue-collar a work mentality. Even the saints themselves—Adlib, Huggy Fresh, and Sneaky P—represent a cultural crossroads of sorts. Although each calls a different part of Canada home—the three eventually linked up in Vancouver—they share the unique cultural identity of being Canadian born Filipino.

This heritage has found its way into the group’s past work—most notably the trio’s first video, Flip it. This time around however, the Saints plays homage to a different background—the golden age of rap, an epoch that’s left a distinct fingerprint on Bringin’ the Boom Back’s sound. From referential verses like vintage-Snoop channeling “Guess who’s back in the motha fuckin’ house,” to more obvious comparisons a la “My tribe’s got a quest and we at it again/all this abstract, put the Q-tip in,” there’s a deep history of stylistic touchstones here.

The album opens with title track, Bringin’ The Boom Back, a soul-sampling backpack jam that acts as an overture for the rest of the album. It’s retro and modern at the same time, proving that this record isn’t only concerned with where it came from, but where its’ going as well. Which brings us to the album’s second theme: Bringin’ the Boom Back isn’t just about hero worship, it’s about chasing dreams at any expense.

Unfortunately, it’s here that things begin to strain. There’s classic and then there’s cliché, and although the Saints do a pretty good job of walking that line, there are times when the album sways uncomfortably close to campy. The three-act structure of the album’s narrative is a staple that’s hard to argue with, but the phone-call skits used to break of the plot seem stale, even forced.

“Why do you think I’m doin’ all this?” the narrator tells an upset girlfriend, who accuses him of prioritizing his music over her, which only begs the listener to ask the same question — what exactly is that dream Adlib, Huggy Fresh, and Sneaky P and after? Moments like this suggest that maybe the narrative was tacked on as an afterthought, a constraint that the 15-track LP might be better off without.

But if you’re the type of listener that tends to skip skits altogether (guilty!), there’s not much left on this album to disappoint. Bringin’ the Boom Back is smooth the way a pale ale is–understated yet satisfying. It’s not cutting edge but it doesn’t have to be. To exhaust this simile, Bringin’ the Boom Box would be a great patio jam after a hard day’s work. And, given all the effort that the Saints claim to have poured into this album, that’s exactly the type of celebrating they deserve.

Top Tracks: “Bringin’ The Boom Back”; “Across the Sky”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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