x – 20. That’s the rule-of-thumb formula for calculating nostalgic revivals. Think of the 1970s TV series Happy Days, set in the 1950s, or the 1990s’ series That ’70s Show, or the new millennium’s revived interest in MTV, the network that brought concerted meaning to the music video in 1981. So it would follow that current bands looking back would set their sights on the 1990s. Many roots reggae bands, however, focus on the genre’s 1970s heyday, with some exploring even further back in the late 1960s’ rocksteady and early reggae sounds. Yet Southern Oregon’s Indubious have remained mathematically correct to refreshing effect.
The opening of the trio’s third album, Wake The Lion, however, draws on more recent history. “Seventh Generation” loosely versions Damian Marley’s masterwork “Welcome to Jamrock,” a comparison that’s fortified when the lead vocalist’s timbre and delivery assume Jr. Gong’s colors.
The group come into their own mid-album, starting with “Jammy,” an exuberant ’90s style digital dancehall cut that sounds like an anchor track on an alternate universe Greensleeves Sampler or Strictly The Best collection. Elsewhere, Indubious fuse dub, dancehall, and Nine-Inch-Nails industrial electronica to craft a unique cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” that’s a most appropriate homage to the original composition while sounding nearly nothing like it. “Bright Day” opens with a charming, elegent ukelele figure before launching into an easy skankin’ bounce threaded with Lester Sterling’s timeless ‘Afrikaan Beat’ rhythm. Meanwhile, “Ask Me” is a captivating mish-mosh of jamband electronica funk, soulful harmonies, a ‘flying cymbals’ beat and kazoo.
Unifying the album is the sheer, infectious joy conveyed in the lyrics and vocals, inspired, one could conject, by founder and vocalist Evan “Evton B” Burton’s double-lung transplant in 2011. Not particularly roots and certainly not slack, the joie de vivre lyrics are so effusive and ebullient that certain missteps in the album—the rap in the title track, the prog rock passages in “Proposition,” the heavy reliance on faux-tois throughout—are fully forgivable. Indubious thoroughly convince us that there isn’t a day so bad that “Jammy,” “Bright Day” or the Israel Kamakawaiwo‘ole-meets-Augustus Pablo closer “Babylon No Bless” can’t make right.