Great title, eh? NaCl — it’s everywhere. In your sweat, in the oceans, in the Bible (Remember? Pillars of salt, that whole Lot thing? If you don’t, that’s cool; I’d rather not have to get all Da Vinci Code on you anyway). And those Funyans you’re eating right now? Full of salt! You see what I mean? Salt is everywhere. So it makes sense that committed universalist Arto Lindsay would appropriate it as the name of this record, which, like just about every album he’s released since ’96 or so, is a collection of English/Portuguese song/poems about s-e-x and maybe l-o-v-e. Some songs are beautiful, and some are boring. But hey, who ever said life (or s-e-x) (or l-o-v-e) was fair?
As in all of his previous solo albums, Lindsay leads with his beats; they remain the most important variable in his unassuming musical calculus. Deftly and gleefully swooping up the percussive elements of African, Brazilian and Western dance and funk music, Salt is locked into a steady, sultry flow. On many tracks, after crooning his plenty-physical lyrics (which pullulate with references to human body parts moving, slipping, twisting, yowza yowza), Linsday allows the beats to stretch out like a yawning cat. You’ll want to dance to them. Good beats are like that.
Of course, not all beats are created equally, and Salt has its share of bummer comedowns. More — how you say? — experimental in nature, songs like “De Lama Lamina” and “Combustivel” don’t move or slip or twist like the other songs. Which is a shame, because Salt functions as an observation of the grunt-and-sweat physical nature of life, not to mention as a celebration of the sacred feminine that is the source of that life. (I know, I know. I said I wouldn’t Da Vinci Code you to death, and here I go again. I apologize.) Instead, the aforementioned songs just plain aren’t sexy; their beats are bad, their forms are bad. Placed back-to-back in the album’s track sequence (and following the merely eh “Jardin Da Alma”), those songs create a serious flaw in Salt‘s design.
Fortunately, the album’s first four tracks — including the soft-rock radio-ready “Kamo (Dark Stripe),” Salt‘s best song — are classic Lindsay, as good as anything he’s done in the last ten years. The secret is in the melodies, which are stronger than ever. I’ve never thought much of Lindsay as a crooner‘s crooner, which is what the former DNA and Ambitious Lovers singer has reinvented himself as. His voice is too thin, too lacking in nuance and subtlety: you want Tanqueray but all he gives you is the cheap stuff that comes in the plastic gallon jugs. But Salt‘s best songs find Lindsay writing tunes to match his voice, and — surprise, surprise — he manages to squeeze some pretty beautiful songs out of his flawed pipes.
Still, it ain’t his best album. (That would be either 1996’s Mundo Civilizado or 1999’s Prize, since you asked.) But in its total thematic embrace of squirming, sweaty, naked flesh (right down to the cover art), coupled with the joie de vivre with which the beats and melodies deliver said theme, Salt is a noteworthy album. It’s easy to fall for a sex album, but it’s even easier when the sex album’s sex is so healthy, so mutually gratifying, so … loving? It’s hard to say. The beats ask what love’s got to do with it, but the tender melodies merely wink in response, which could mean everything. Or nothing.