With his second album Keep It Unreal Stockport’s Mr Scruff was catapulted from the murky backrooms of Manchester’s club scene onto a global stage, it’s eclectic mix of hip-hop, funk, jazz, and everything and anything else to hand, combined with its refreshing humour quickly turned it into oneof the great leftfield albums of the last decade, so much so even Madonna was to be found singing it’s praises.
Three years and several hundred gigs later, Mr Scruff is finally ready to drop his third album, Trouser Jazz. The album kicks off with the big and brassy Here We Go, the next proper single Sweet Smoke follows, a hefty slab of dancefloor funk, insistent stabs laid over a funky trumpet refrain, some stomping house tempo beats and swirling organ keys, it’s tailor made for clubs of a sunnier disposition. The ’70s fusion vibe is amplified on Beyond, which features the languid vocals of label mate Seeming To. Over a running snare and hi-hat singer Seeming purrs – it could be the opening theme to a Blaxsploitation science fiction film.
Shrimp, the first single released off the album, is a tasty slice of jazz-disco over a pulsing disco bass. Scruff lets loose with the funkiest Moog workout you’ll hear this year, like Herbie Hancock getting busy in the studio with Chic. The tempo and my interest drops with the dull Come Alive, though. It’s not that its scatty vocals and parping bass line are that bad, but I could reach into my record collection and dig out a hundred similar songs.
Vocalist Seeming returns on Valley Of The Sausages to hum, mumble and moan over Sneaky from Fingathing‘s bass and cello, and Moss’ flute. A little Jazz Club in places, its virtue of not taking itself seriously keeps it from descending into self-parody. Whether Come On Grandad will succeed in persuading an army of octogenarians to reach for their jazz trousers and break out some moves on the dancefloor remains to be seen, but its bouncy, broken beats should at least find favour with those still in possession of their own hair and teeth.
The quirk factor is upped on Vibrate, featuring the home-grown rap talent of Braintax, a chugging hip-hop tune seemingly built from the remains of an German oom-pah band. Album closer Ahoy There! is a shuffling sea shanty overlaid with maritime TV soundbites. Depending on your views on this sort of thing it’s either a joke too far or just what you’ve been waiting the whole album for.
All in all, it’s a solid album, not as likely to inspire devotion as his last one managed, but still with enough quality moments to definitely make it a worthwhile purchase. Maybe next time just a little less jazz and a bit more trouser please.