The back story of Songhoy Blues makes most rock ‘n’ roll tales of trouble, strife and life of danger seem pretty laughable.
Three of the Malian quartet's members had to flee when their hometowns in the northern parts of the country were taken over by Jihadist militias, imposing strict sharia law and banning music (amongst other things). The displaced musicians ended up in capital Bamako, where the four-piece met and started a band, leading to a slot on the Damon Albarn-orchestrated Africa Express compilation Maison Des Jeunes and, eventually, 2015's much-acclaimed debut Music in Exile.
Considering this background, it's striking just how much joy pretty much every note of Résistance contains. Recorded in London, the album puts to use the new points of reference the band's picked up during the tireless international touring that followed Music in Exile's success. By now, it'd be ridiculously restrictive to describe Songhoy Blues as a 'World Music' or 'Desert Blues' outfit, although a hopped-up, urban and electrified form of the latter bubbles underneath much of the record. Put simply, they are a red-hot, open-eared rock 'n' roll band who just happen to originate from Mali and operate in a language other than English.
There are still moments where Songhoy Blues's origins of playing covers of tunes by the late Malian music legend Ali Farka Toure show clearly. Starring a gloriously growly vocal cameo from Iggy Pop, the crackling guitars of "Sahara" sounds like Desert-Blues heroes Tinariwen after a huge pot of inhumanly strong coffee. The rootsy, uncharacteristically languid "Hometown" features a violin pitched halfway between the River Niger delta and Louisiana swampland.
Elsewhere, surprises abound. Opener "Voter" breaks into fat and fuzzy riffs slightly reminiscent of Queens Of The Stone Age, another outfit who've spent time in a desert. The rousing call for unity and positivity on the anthemic closer "One Colour" throws a children's choir in the mix. "Bamako" mixes traditional Malian melodies with synths and tight chicken-scratch funk guitars, whilst the almost uncontrollably high voltage energy of “Dabari” condenses Fela Kuti's loose-limbed, expansive Afrobeat grooves - inspired by classic James Brown - to three sizzling minutes. London grime MC Elf Kid fits in seamlessly within the bright horns of "Mali Nord".
Despite the eclectic genre-hopping, all of Résistance ends up sounding unmistakably and thrillingly like Songhoy Blues.