Where else in sunny, politically embattled California could you find a loopy delight like CrankCase's Model Arithmetic? Granted, none of the songs addresses the governor's recall vote, but there is "The Tale of the Stolen Funk and How We Stole it Back," one of several twelve-inch singles that helped the group secure a strong following in the SoCal hip-hop underground last year. "Put back the funk in the rap," says MC Andy Cooper as he drops several disses toward Limp Bizkit and other like-minded rap-rock bands. "Now it's time to avenge my friend and regain the groove that didn't belong to them."

It's ironic that CrankCase, a band that superficially evokes middling jazz-fusion of the Medeski Martin and Wood variety more than chunky, heavy P-Funk, would claim to have "the stolen funk." But there are all kinds of hidden delights in the whimsically light sound, thanks to Jon "Sam" Stroosma's effortless guitar and bass playing and steady, solid drummer Pete Deeble. Then there's Cooper, whose voice appears to dance around the track as he rhymes in frighteningly proper English, piling metaphors and pop-culture references onto punch line-driven sentences.

Together they produce tracks that are so unabashedly happy you forget how goofy some of them are. There's "Sam's the Man": Its chorus features an unnamed female vocalist whose chanting of "Come on, Sam!" with Cooper invites comparison to the Wonder Twins shouting, "Wonder Twin powers, activate!" Others like "The Weed Song" have a comic-book surrealism, as Cooper opines in a mock-Cypress Hill vocal pattern: "Anything we learned is wrong, everything's a setup/There might not be evidence but still he doesn't let up with/Jimmy, Willy Wonka, Dark Side of the Moon/Puff the Magic Dragon Scooby-Doo cartoon."

What does it all mean? Like many of its underground hip-hop peers (Cooper in fact spends most of his time as one-third of true school act Ugly Duckling), CrankCase has an austere confidence, much like a model high school student, that infects vocal appearances and inspires instrumental tracks like "Soap" and "Fire Hole." Their saving grace is that such convictions (at one point, they big up the good ol' U.S. of A.) never come off as pedantic, squeezing the fun out of the music. Indeed it's entirely possible to listen to Model Arithmetic by losing oneself in the joyful calamity its players produce, even while Cooper's lyrics hint at deeper, more controversial beliefs.

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Mosi Reeves
Contact: Mosi Reeves