Review Summary: Styles P. and Sinéad O'Connor guest on the funk/rap collective's slightly disappointing third effort.
It’s probably beyond worthless to try and classify Republic Of Loose at this point. Rarely eliciting any less than a strong reaction, the six-strong Dublin outfit have carved a niche all of their own on the domestic scene, splicing smooth funk grooves and debauched gangster rap with stadium rock sensibilities and a sweet soul centre. They’ve become as renowned for their needlessly offensive lyrics as their pop smarts, the two constantly intermingling, as tracks like ‘Girl I’m Gonna Fu
ck You Up,’ ‘Comeback Girl’ and ‘Break’ have seen their massive chart potential depleted by the radio-unfriendly content of their lyricisms. Whereas even the nastiest of rappers is content to see censure in search of chart success, the Loose have been uncompromising- and it’s a beauty to behold. How many other bands could put out a funky Latin jam in the form of ‘Break,’ an unapologetic ode to unprotected sex, only to see it perforate the charts in AIDS-ravaged South Africa? Of all places? Marshall Mathers, indeed.
On the other hand, Republic Of Loose are more than capable of playing the game when necessary. VOL IV: Johnny Pyro And The Dance Of Evil
, the group’s third full-length release and second on their independent label Loaded Dice Records, leads with the sultry single ‘I Like Music,’ whereupon frontman Mik Pyro eloquently addresses the issue of art vs. commerce to the backdrop of pulsating funkalicious horns. He observes: “Yeah I met this skank, you know she’s working at a bank / I told her I am making music music now.”
She responds: “Are you really ever gonna make a living, or are you just living a lie?”
she responds, to Pyro’s horror. He retorts: “I dunno what you’re talking about Miss, but let me assure of this: I like moo-sic.”
He also likes controversy. Projected second single ‘The Steady Song’ brings Loose straight back to Ground Zero, as Pyro boasts “I met your mother an hour ago / And then I told her to […] go down on the pavement to lick my balls,”
while chanteuse Isabelle Reyes-Feeney (she of ‘Break’) fame weighs in with her own contribution: “I bought some heroin and brought it to school / I don’t know why I’m so unbelievably cool.”
A gaggle of guest stars dot the album’s 16 tracks, with mixed results. Ruff Ryders alumnus Styles P
guests on an alternate version of ‘I Like Music,’ confusingly placed before the radio edit on the track list, however Styles’ clean and precise rhymes fail to gloss over a patchy editing job, where it seems entire sections have been haphazardly removed the accommodate the rapper’s admittedly show-stealing performance. More organic is Nigerian hip hop collective Millionaire Boyz
’ cameo on the refreshingly honest ‘I.R.I.I.S.H.,’ which also features Dublin folk revivalist The Mighty Stef
, in which Pyro and the Millionaire Boyz trade contrasting visions of life in 21st Century Ireland. The former’s is a hilarious, but scathing, attack on empty Irish nationalism, announcing: “I don’t believe in murdering kids / I don’t believe in murdering Brits / But I do believe in murdering tits / With my teeth.”
makes a characteristically understated appearance on ‘The Telephone,’ one of two anti-telephone diatribes, which is arguably the album’s weakest track and the one that benefits least from Pyro’s stream-of-consciousness vocalising. ‘Awful Cold,’ a second number with Ms. Feeney, is one of the album’s sleeper hits, a slow burning disco number that boasts Benjamin Loose’s best bass line to date. ‘The Ritual,’ a duet with Annie Tierney (Mik Pyro’s sister and vocalist with Chicks
), features some of the most creative rhyming this side of Noel Gallagher’s house, as Pyro alternately describes the violence in Dublin as “fistual” and “clitoral.” The spaghetti western guitar that punctuates sobriety anthem ‘Poquito’ calls to mind a drunken Brian Setzer
on the set of Once Upon A Time In Mexico
, while opener ‘Got’ recalls Aaagh!
’s eponymous opener in its glorious arena rock pomp. Rarely, however, does it surpass the Aaagh!
’s better moments, and frequently the album sounds like a slightly more unified rehash of its predecessor.
Yet, inevitably, it all comes back to ‘The Steady Song.’ The rip-roaring duet all but sums up the existential argument surrounding Republic Of Loose: arguably the most melodic and marketable track in their repetoire, they’ve essentially botched any radio activity for the song with their questionable lyrical topics. Could Republic Of Loose have become the next Snow Patrol were they prepared to play the pop game a little more shrewdly? Are Pyro’s surrealist lyrics and playfully vulgar themes merely a defence mechanism to insulate the group from serious critical scrutiny? Is their aversion to mainstream success a blessing to fans, or a slight to the wider music public? But probably the most commonly asked question is the simplest one: are Republic Of Loose just a gimmick band, designed to capitalise on the white middle class fascination with African American culture, or worse still a ironic parody of black America’s most glorious excesses?
All of these questions and more have been asked of Republic Of Loose ever since they burst on the domestic scene in 2003, and none of them have been answered- and to be perfectly frank, none of them need to be answered. The very fact that a musical group, by virtue of their very existence, can ask so many essential questions is reason enough to believe that the musical climate is significantly richer due to groups like Republic Of Loose.