If ever a record captured the tensions afoot in England’s capital city in 2008, it would have to get past The Bug to do it. For this is an album that singlehandedly takes on the issues of which so many fight shy, blinking not once in its fierce address.
That so many people take part in the telling of this particular tale only strengthens its communal impact. The Bug, aka Kevin Martin, may supply the beats and the weird, doom-laden sounds that rumble as far beneath the ground as the Piccadilly Line, but the vocalists bring forth an almost unprecedented spew of venom.
That much is evident barely a minute into Angry, a real statement of intent from Tippa Irie that hammers home the point in the mantra “So many things that get me angry, so many things that get me mad”. Spaceape follows up in Fuckaz, taking ignorance and control freaks head on. Similarly chilling is Roots Manuva collaborator Ricky Ranking. Billed as ‘one of the kings of the dancehall’ on his intro, there’s a sense an uplifting anthem is to follow. Nothing could be further from the truth, Murder We stealthily treading the street with a real sense of intent.
Subsequent listens reveal the quieter tracks as possessing even more latent power. Roger Robinson‘s You And Me crackles with paranoia, using a beat that would normally soothe to add to the sense of unease. Freak Freak, meanwhile, is a quite extraordinary instrumental, perhaps the closest The Bug comes to Burial‘s sound world in his evocation of London streets at night. It’s impossible to wipe from your mind’s eye.
The sense persists that everything is built towards final track Judgement, another fine contribution from Ricky Ranking to a beat so tired it can barely move. Fire and brimstone comes down with the vocalist’s decree that judgement is just around the corner, and while a soft, more soulful vocal offers consolation it’s not long before the vultures circle once again.
Heavy stuff, for sure – but for an album that represents London in 2008, this is most definitely it. No pre-2012 optimism here, more a serious reality check from The Bug and his team. It’s a fine if unsettling achievement.