“So you think electronic music is repetitive? Well… it is repetitive,” opens the unconvincing intro monologue of Clean Bandit’s debut album.
It’s a disclaimer that carries enough insecurity to suggest the band isn’t expecting electronic heads to buy this record, and it’s a safe bet. If the album had a concept (which it doesn’t) it would probably be “round the houses”, as each track tries its damnedest to latch onto any dance genre of the last decade.
‘Heart On Fire’ is the garage revivalist track you’d find in a Logic tutorial, ‘A+E’ is a throwaway ode to UK funky, and when Stylo G wanders in for the commercial dancehall of ‘Come Over’, you can’t help but think he might have got the wrong room.
The classical elements are independently pleasing – as you’d expect when elements of Shostakovich, Mozart and so on are used – but by drenching it all in commercial dance production, the supposed ‘fusion’ becomes a bastardisation. Lizzo’s rapid delivery rallies a rescue mission on ‘New Eyes’, over a meaty rap beat reminiscent of the absent pre-album track ‘Local Sauce’. It’s such a departure, one wonders whether this is Clean Bandit’s true form after 10 previous tracks of calculated chart bait.
Furthering that belief, the skittering beats and lush vocals on ‘Birch’ are genuinely inspired, and the outro movement finally marries their elements in a leftfield electronic matrimony of sounds. But these are tracks 11, 12 and 13, and by then it’s all just too little, too late.
Words: Joe Zadeh
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Related: Clean Bandit review the singles