If an album has a song called “Lasers ’N Lesbians,” what’s not to love? That’s pretty much all that can be or needs to be said about Double Panther, the latest album to come out from Diego’s Umbrella, a gypsy-rock band from San Francisco.
The sound of Diego’s Umbrella varies wildly, but it’s usually somewhat cocaine-induced. The album and its creators are clearly enjoying themselves thoroughly: When you take the CD out of the case, the first thing you see is the band riding winged unicorns and waving various flaming weapons. The band make a point of not taking anything too seriously while maintaining an enjoyable intensity in their crazy music.
The album, while extremely fun to listen to in many ways, does have some noticeable flaws. Musical diversity is part of what makes the Double Panther so much fun, but the album’s inconsistency makes for awkward transitions between tracks through the entire first half of the album. A clever combination of horns, strings, and reggae beats on the aforementioned “Lasers ’N Lesbians” stumbles clumsily into the next track, “Der Kadkhen Freylekh,” which starts out with an Eastern European fiddle lead. The song eventually builds back to where “Lasers” left off, but there’s a period of initial confusion as you wonder what, exactly, is happening.
In addition, there’s really nothing new that this album brings to the table. Diego’s Umbrella has a fun culture-clash of a genre to play around with, but Double Panther maybe goes too far for in its reach and causes the band to revert to sounding exactly like whatever dialect of world music they happen to be sampling. A lot of the time when you appreciate their music, you’re appreciating their eclectic influences and their ability to blend them all together.
But enough with the bitching, there’s enough rocking from this album to make up for the inconsistency and occasional lack of originality. No matter what Diego’s Umbrella does, they make you want to enjoy it. The Latin Rock is straight out of a Robert Rodriguez soundtrack, the Eastern European fiddle battling could rock any dancehall, and even the more traditional songs like “Khosid Wedding” could land themselves on A Prairie Home Companion, if Garrison Keillor went insane.
The band’s sheer passion for of their music motivates you to enjoy their music along with them. They’re just having a good ol’ time, and you should too.