The debut album from the electro maestro and the beardy pop poet has been eagerly anticipated and it does not hesitate to make an impression. It’s an album about making amends and making amendments, featuring angst and anger, articulations and academics, artistry and attacks on artifice. This makes up just the start of the most exciting UK based musical projects of the year so far.
The opening track, The Beat That My Heart Skipped, invites listeners into a world of words, rebellion and partying. Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip’s manifesto of parse and protest is laid bare.
Pip, the Essex born poet, rants live, inciting excitement in the audience for the post-commercial pop challenge. Now all that remains is to live up to his own ideals and thanks to the electro beats of Sac the track is reassuringly catchy – full of tinkling effects, synth, keyboards, drums and layers of Pip’s deep vocal drone.
Development continues to reinforce the right to recognize hip-hop intelligence while melding with bluesy, folk guitar. It’s the direct address and conversational style that brings the tracks to life. We get recitals of information inspired by the periodic table and plenty of refreshing and honest takes on the state of contemporary culture and society.
In Look for the Woman, the chorus of “Love you enough too much too leave, don’t like you enough to stay” is a dilemma of modern ambivalence. In Tommy C, a tribute to the comedian Tommy Cooper, Pip regales that, nowadays, pop acts don’t know what beauty is, that it really is more than just a pair of tits. The title track Angles meanwhile lushly talks about the many layers of life, overlapping scenes over each other until finally they expose how upsets and misinterpretation can breed more tragedy.
Musically there are some moments of brilliant conflation. Fixed is a plea for any act to “inspire and thrill me rather than kill me” while cleverly using Dizzee Rascal‘s Fix Up, Look Sharp as the basis for the melody. Staying on the sampling front, Letter From God To Man makes brilliant use of Radiohead‘s Planet Telex. The fact that garage, grime, and two-step cling to the poetry manages to elevate the effect altogether. However, the soundscape also often demands a diversion of your attention. Little cadences such as static interruptions, pulsing arches, stacked and staggered composition perk the ears towards the background again.
Pip continues to be intellectually stimulating, although perhaps this is too weak a term. It is not just stimulating or a cerebral massage – it’s mild mental masturbation. You get off on following Pip’s words, concurring or quarrelling over his ideas and arguments. He doesn’t rest on anodyne assertions so either way he is producing a stunning series of reactions.
Thou Shalt Always Kill set up a new set of indie commandments last year and broke the pair into the clubs and onto playlists. For anyone cerebrally awake Pip’s point was powerfully laid out – “think for yourself” – and if you are taking heed he has kind of rendered this review a tad redundant.
Zealous zealots with zany idiosyncratic idioms aplenty are all well and good but the album still suffers from the lack of any totally infectious tunes or an easier, more charismatic vocal performance. It is harder to fully enjoy, it requires attention and, as the final track puts it, you are still Waiting For The Beat To Kick In at the album’s end.
The absolute command to be listened to carefully removes it slightly from the pop sphere but it is still a bright beam of hope for hip hoppers, tech-touts, word freaks and electro-funk fans.