Craig David was a mere teenager when his debut offering Born To Do It created waves which threatened to drown the music establishment two years ago. But the promised fistfuls of awards were denied him, and he threatened to become more famous for the whirlwind conquest lyrically captured in his hit 7 Days.
So the Southampton R&B and garage sensation decided to take coals to Newcastle and attempt to break the US market, before coming home to hit us with his follow-up Slicker Than Your Average. The sense that David has slipped from our minds was shown by his comeback single What’s Your Flava making number eight, which is nothing to write home about when anything less than a chart-topper is thought a flop nowadays.
Yet this is a song with a funky edge which instantly lodges in the mind – although few of Slicker’s 13 tracks have that obvious oomph. An urban twist runs through the middle of this album, with a Transatlantic taste so strong at times that David could be a West Coast product, not a lad raised on England’s salty south seaboard.
The opener and title track with its moody notes and shuffling rhythm bridges the Atlantic – but David seems to be sat happily on the other side of the ocean. Fast Cars kicks off with an unnerving window-smash and ear-piercing car alarm, and turns into a pacy ode to, well, fast cars and loose women. Somehow young David seems too gentle for such pursuits. The song’s attempted grittiness is hosed down with the frothy foaminess of Hidden Agenda, as David makes the most of this album’s contrasts. It’s a happy, clappy piece of music which will lighten the dankest winter day.
But the mood switches to a meaty piece of garage, Eenie Meenie, where David shows off his skill for singing ninety-to-the-dozen – but he makes himself understood. Musical national treasure and patron of the rainforests Sting bizarrely turns up on Rise & Fall, but his gravely tones contrast well with David’s sweeter notes on an otherwise mid-tempo, nice-but-bland slice of pop. Having dispensed with Sting, David gets backs to business with a clutch of garage-tinged R&B numbers, including Spanish, the opening refrain of which reminds of moustachioed Mexicans after a few too many tequilas. Otherwise, it’s a good tune. Closing tune World Filled With Love leaves a slightly odd taste in the mouth – it’s Craig David doing pop by numbers. He does it well, although I half expected a random Pop Idol to take the microphone.
An older, well-travelled Craig David has produced a difficult comeback album which needed to be something special to return him to the form of his explosive debut. It isn’t bulging with tracks to blow your socks off, but even the less memorable songs are well-constructed and produced with polish. His efforts at being a hard-edged So Solid Crew wannabe are effective, but this man prefers light and breezy to moodily dark.
But he still had the gift of the gab and an outstanding talent which makes sense when he vocalises at full throttle. As a debutant he claimed that he was Born To Do It – this album is by no means a classic, but Craig David is unlikely to shuffle off to his musical grave just yet.