Album Reviews

Herbaliser – Take London

(Ninja Tune) UK release date: 6 June 2005

“London is there for the taking. A rich city -food, women, gold. My men have come a long way forthis. I say we take London – now!” So goes the openinggambit of the new Herbaliser album, a statement ofintent if ever there was one. So how do they plan totake the capital? By stealth, it seems, and by way ofworming their way into every musical genreimaginable.

They might be known as a hip hop act but it’s soonclear the duo of Jake Wherry and OllieTeeba can apply themselves to cinematic funk, jazzand even gangster rap, although it has to be said someexcursions are more effective than others.

Long time collaborator Jean Grae returns tocontribute four tracks, and her deceptively lazy styleof rapping is as well acquitted to the bold Nah’ Mean,Nah’m’ Sayin’ as it is to the quasi-lullaby Close YourEyes. Roots Manuva, too, returns to the foldfor Lord Lord, his immediately recognisable tonesalmost wounded here as he prowls like a hurt animal.The brash single Generals suddenly sounds out of placein this company, and where its multitude of upfrontvocalists was thrilling it now soundsover-aggressive.

In between albums Wherry and Teeba have been busyproviding theme music for the Playstation andMotorola, not to mention Guy Ritchie’s Snatch. On theevidence of two tracks here they could be up for a lotmore soon, as they would fit perfectly into any USdetective movie. Geddim is the most immediate, asuperb piece of funk led by the piano’s left hand.Gadget Funk is almost as good, its opening build uppaced to perfection before a brassy explosion.

Elsewhere the duo are proficient in nocturnal,smoke screened music, with Close Your Eyes,Sonofanuthamutha and Song For Mary the pick of the bunch. Theyclose with a tribute to Serge Gainsbourg, a monologuefrom guest Katerine.

It’s all very well having a multitude of musicalpersonalities, but do they all hang together to make acoherent record? At first the answer would have to beno, but after repeat listening the structure appearsto make sense. You do, however, need to be broad ofmusical mind to appreciate the extremes of Generalsand Close Your Eyes, but you can be pretty sure therewill be something to take your fancy here, somethingto elicit a reaction rather than pass by unnoticed.

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Herbaliser – Take London