There’s nothing wrong with pure pleasure in music, and this album provides it. Beats International is an unlikely bunch, not a band, exactly, but — as its founder Norman Cook (former bassist of the Housemartins) says — something closer to a ”collective.” When it toured its native Britain, it numbered 22 souls, among them rappers, dancers, a graffiti artist, and a 14-piece band.
On the collective’s debut album, the music just soars. It’s dance music, I guess, but since it also ranges through styles that include African music and rap, it shouldn’t be limited by one label. It’s a producer’s album, full of rabbits pulled out of unexpected musical hats. A soul hit by the S.O.S. Band gets outfitted with a bass line from the Clash and transformed into reggae; the rough-voiced British political folksinger Billy Bragg turns up doing R&B in an unexpected falsetto.
But most of all the album smiles with effortless melody. Just try to resist ”Before I Grow Too Old,” a New Orleans tune by Fats Domino that Beats International infects with extra bounce. Try to resist the milky Latin flutes in ”The Ragged Trousered Percussionist,” crooning against crackling rhythm tracks to create a mixture like ice cream and peanuts.
I could complain that the last five songs aren’t as good as the first six, but that would be like complaining an A album isn’t an A+. Let Them Eat Bingo is good enough exactly as it is.