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Altrok Showcase w/ Sean Carolan

CD of The Week

Week of 8/21/23

    Genesis Owusu - STRUGGLER (Ourness / AWAL)

    Ghanaian-Australian musician Genesis Owusu released his strong, multi-faceted debut album Smiling With No Teeth back in 2021. It hit differently at the time, incorporating dark wit and cynicism with a stylish blend of dance-punk and alternative hip-hop; utilizing the image of two black dogs, he envisioned his struggles with racism and depression. Now on his brand new album STRUGGLER, Owusu highlights the attempt to rise from the ashes through the embodiment of a roach in the midst of an existential crisis; simultaneously avoiding the stomp of a shoe (God, oppression), while outlasting the apocalypse (present and future). This poignant imagery is padded with absurdist literary references like Beckett's Waiting For Godot and, most obviously, Kafka's The Metamorphosis. While also arguably absurdist, there are quite a few biblical allusions to help get the message across, such as the aforementioned apocalypse of Sodom and Gomorrah, and battling the giant Goliath.

    The roach protagonist surfaces in almost all of these 11 new tracks. On the frenetic opener "Leaving the Light" he battles overwhelming odds, "In the end, it's a roach vs. a landslide." "The Roach" is easily the symbolic title track with not-so-subtle imagery; "I'm a roach, don't knock me on my back, Legs in the air, hope God don't attack." The plight continues on "This Old Man" where he also battles loneliness on top of desperation; thematically and musically it's reminiscent of 80's goth. Along with the opener, both "Tied Up!" and "Stay Blessed" are dynamic, radio-friendly tracks that are sure to be showstoppers during his fall tour.

    Like his debut, STRUGGLER is largely a dance-punk album (with obvious influences from Bloc Party and TV On The Radio), but not wanting to be packaged in a box, Owusu employs slinky, soulful funk on "See Ya There," more akin to Prince and Thundercat, while the latter's influence shines through on the groove-laden "That's Life (A Swamp)." Closer "Stuck To The Fan" deftly melds jazz and R&B for a final kiss-off. Between the ultra-funky and punky vibes of the music, plus his dramatic and claustrophobic lyricism, Genesis Owusu is laying bare the burden of dealing with societal anxiety; summed up best on "Freak Boy" when he intones "The world's a big place to move, I hope I figure out a thing or two, Roach keep runnin..."

    Don't miss Genesis Owusu's return to Philadelphia when he headlines Underground Arts on Saturday, October 21st.
    Review by Dave Lindquist

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