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It’s a time-honoured career arc: boy makes his name via eccentric aquatic proclivity, boy outgrows sea-faring persona, and, amidst copious amounts of tea drinking, boy needs to distance himself from synonyms of kooky and quirky.
In a jump from 2008’s fun and uninhibited round-up of styles that caught ‘Ninja Tuna’, Mr Scruff appears to have packed away the fishing rod once and for all. From the same album, the Pete Simpson-featuring ‘This Way’ has since become prophetic a vision.
‘Friendly Bacteria’, despite the patent Andy Carthy sleeve art for he is Mr Scruff), is an open admission of adult, grown-up orientation, where song-written, broken-beat soul, chaperoned by Robert Owens, Denis Jones and Vanessa Freeman, seems wary of party goers without a curfew.
It’s a mature, mild, midlife reappraisal that makes its predecessor and much of Scruff’s past reputation sound like a Bermuda short-wearing crisis. Festival clubbers will find nourishment in the bassline churns that power stealth bomber ‘We Are Coming’, the ribbiting jazz of ‘What’, and ‘Stereo Breath’ redressing Roots Manuva’s ‘Witness’.
While open to fizz and wobble, Carthy speaks for the well-heeled feet-up crew over the knees-up massive, never more so than on the technically accomplished, balmy hammock rocker ‘Feel Free’.
Of course ‘Friendly Bacteria’ could well have been waiting to break out all along, and it shouldn’t be forgotten that Carthy knows music (see his Southport Weekender selections). This is a sizzling and accomplished jaunt through the mind and talents of a British institution.
Words: Matt Oliver
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Stream ‘Friendly Bacteria’ in full below (and above!), via Deezer…