Dub Is A Weapon Vaporized Reviewed on www.punknews.com

Dub Is a Weapon
Vaporized (2011)

Reviewer Rating:

Contributed by: JohnGentile
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Published on April 26th 2011

Dave Hahn, the head of Dub Is a Weapon, knows his Jamaican music. In addition to doing a tour of duty serving as the vie dub engineer on the Dub Side of the Moon tour and playing guitar in Dave Hillyard's band for a decade, he provided legendary Jamaican producer/performer Lee "Scratch" Perry with the best live backing band that ever supported the eccentric genius*. On Vaporized, which was mostly written by Hanh, the group takes the chassis of classic reggae and injects a little bit of NY punk rock heat under the hood in this mostly instrumental set.

"Turbulence", the opener, sets the tone for the album. As an energetic but heavy bass rumbles in the foreground, Hanh picks and flitters around his strings as spaced-out effects zoom in and out. While a lot of American-bred reggae unfortunately seems to paint a picture as this "love and peace, mon" caricature, Dub Is a Weapon acknowledge reggae's long history of sinister and twisting tunes. Vaporized is a dark album—the tempo marches forward at a slowly accelerating pace, the strings themselves seem to clang like whips, and strange noises leap out of nowhere and retreat just as quickly back into the ether.

Vaporized is most successful when they use the full force of their large ensemble. Interestingly, when the group leans on all of its instruments, the percussion of Larry McDonald (who has played with Bob Marley, Sly and Robbie, and many others) seems to cut through the shifting parts and adds a spooky, shambling quality on the top of the waves.

in some respects, though, Vaporized's strengths are also its weaknesses. Although Dub Is a Weapon is unique in adding an energetic paranoia to their music in a genre that has been watered down in the states, they never step back from their march. What made the works of early dub pioneers like King Tubby and Lee Perry, and even later students Scientist so great was their ability to pull back on the reigns, slow the music to a plod, and allow each sound to fully expand and drift away. In the energetic context of Vaporized, we don't get to savor the group's sonic elements so much as they surprise us and then jump back into the darkness.

Although reggae has a long, complex (and often self-contradictory) history, Dub Is a Weapon studies their lessons and apply the tactics of the greats. But while other groups stop here, Dub Is a Weapon pushes the envelope, injecting some of their own background into Jamaican music as opposed to making crude imitations. Vaporized doesn't replicate the works of earlier dub titans. But, by refraining to try duplicate the works of Tubby and Perry, Dub Is a Weapon show that they understand those great works better than those that go for strict imitation.

* - He also played guitar in MDC for a year, giving him some punk rock bona fides.