Despite their moniker, Benin City’s reboot LP Last Night is an ode to London; specifically, a slice of London that is vanishing day-by-day. The trio, comprised of multi-instrumentalist Tom Leaper and vocalists Joshua Idehen and Shanaz Dorsett, have pieced together an album of dance anthems for and about the slow demise of the capital’s famous club scene in the wake of banker-appeasing gentrification.
As Dorsett waxes poetic about “glazed eyes in chip shop twilight,” or being “down in the gutter with the seagulls and the chicken bones and the chips” on This Is LDN III, her conviction makes clear the pride she feels for this more human, less wipe-clean vision of London.
Fittingly, the instrumentals attempt to piece together the best products of the capital’s melting pot. Blaring saxophones accompany 808s; grime synths slot into place alongside echoing dub snares. There is no cultural primacy on Last Night, so instead it becomes a creative showcase of solidarity and communality between the many diaspora that call London home.
Leaper’s productions are endearingly DIY, and Idehen’s baritone vocals are often reminiscent of Faithless’ Maxi Jazz: unpolished but effortlessly sexy. Final Form, a barnstorming West African house track, is the best evidence of these two qualities working in tandem.
Unfortunately the energy and concision that we see in the first half of the album doesn’t carry through, and by the album’s end there are a number of ballads that drag. The closing track Not The End in particular seems to be a tonal misfire, and perhaps should have been left on the cutting room floor.
In their rousing live shows, Benin City are better able to keep up the momentum and present a case for the preservation of London’s club scene, but Last Night is still a fun late-night journey around the boroughs.