My Neighbour Is is actually a well known and very busy Manchester-based artist known as Robot Needs Oil. He’s been known to not-so-secretly record downtempo, reggae and funk hip hop under that alter ego. However, this collection of eight tracks is filled with mainly the funk musical variety.
For instance, one called “Jaguar Paw” sounds like a distant, funkier cousin to Steve Miller’s “Fly like an Eagle.” It has that one-two-three rhythm of the original. It’s a strongly funky guitar-driven track, much like Miller’s song. With it, though, My Neighbour Is fits in number of spoken drop-ins, as well.
“A Clockwork Orange,” however, is far spookier. Much like the novel it was inspired by, this track has an echoing electric guitar figure that sounds a lot like the sort David Gilmore once put to Pink Floyd recordings. Eventually, the mood lightens up with some really nice soul singing. It evolves from something that may scare you a little, to a relatively celebratory track.
The title track, “Running of the Bulls,” samples James Brown shouting, “Hit me!” And you just can’t get away from James Brown’s influence, which is all over this project. When you think of it, this might have been the music Brown would be making today, had he lived long enough to see the DJ era. Brown was always all about making it funky, and this music is, indeed, funky. He was also a relatively minimalist sound architect. Although some of his early 50s ballads, for instance, were structured radio songs, his music evolved into more free flowing dance music once he got into the 70s. Therefore, you can see a strong link between what My Neighbour Is is doing now, and what Mr. Brown did so well back in the day. You can also hear Brown’s influence on “Impressive the Donkey,” especially due to the grunting that helps provide its rhythm.
Some of these sounds mix unlikely bedfellows together. A good example of this is “Funky Train.” It begins as a relatively simplistic groove song. However, it adds a weedy synthesizer part towards the end that sounds a lot like what gangsta rap acts were applying to their tracks in the 80s.
It’s tough to see why this project was put under The Running of the Bulls title. There isn’t anything on it that even remotely reminds you of Spain. There is no Spanish music. Perhaps calling an album The Bulls Are Getting down and Getting Funky just wouldn’t fit quite so well.
The best thing this album has going for it is its consistently dance-able-ness. One can easily imagine someone putting it on at a party and have the people immediately getting up to dance. It’s the sort of thing that young people will immediately gravitate to because it’s just so irresistible. At the same time, older folks will quickly recognize the sonic source material. This is not modern sounding music. Instead, it’s closer to reconfigured old music.
After all’s said and done, one is left wishing their neighbor was My Neighbour Is. That’s because he, more than likely, throws the best dance parties in the whole neighborhood. You just gotta love it! It’s so true that everything old is new again. Such is certainly the case with Running of the Bulls. Who knows, perhaps some folks will think this is revolutionary new music. We’ll just let it be our little secret, though. Whether you realize that a rose by any other name is a rose or not, doesn’t prevent you from really digging these sounds. You just need good ears and a willingness to dance. You’ll get down, get funky, no bull.