Martin Amis argued that writing loses its value when it becomes accessible to anyone. The voice of the author is what holds the most importance. Perhaps he would have admired how completely Eric Burton, the lead singer and songwriter of Black Pumas, embodies the spirited and playful essence of the soul revivalists in their exceptional second album. It is unlikely that anyone else could have created the dynamic combination of the upbeat single “Mrs Postman”, in which Burton pays homage to blue-collar labor, followed by the title track from the perspective of a diamond riding in the back seat of a Cadillac.
Producer and co-writer Adrian Quesada also plays his A game. Black Pumas’ searing live show (“electric church”, according to Burton), as seen at events such as the Grammys and President Biden’s inauguration, feeds back into Quesada’s studio science here, broadening and deepening the band’s Neil Young meets Wu-Tang vibe. Although their self-titled debut had a glittering aura, the basic standard here is higher. From first note to last, Chronicles of a Diamond swaggers from the speakers. Even the love songs have new light cast on that hoary old topic by the roaring fire of Burton’s voice, while Quesada layers psychedelics and electronica into the orchestral mix, always conjuring new charms from familiar elements.