Review Summary: The title of Dizzee's new release is either incredibly self-aware, or incredibly pointless in it's attempt at self-awareness. Guess which.
A few years ago, I was reading two works of fiction from Scottish author Iain Banks (almost concurrently) "The Crow Road", and "Dead Air". "The Crow Road", if you're unfamilliar with it, is about a large and fairly affluent family in rural Scotland, and the narrator Prentice McHoan's journey of self-discovery, and the uncovering of numerous familial secrets. "Dead Air", is about a London-based radio DJ and his conversations both on and off the air; A story which begins on 9/11. I failed to understand either of them at the time - I found (as is the case with some of Bank's work) that they were too layered to really garner much on the first read through. After re'reading them both again, "The Crow Road", is now my absolute favourite work of contemporary fiction, an utter pleasure to read. "Dead Air", however, is ***e.
I think you guys can see where I'm going with this...
"The Crow Road", much likes Dizzee Rascal's debut "Boy In Da Corner", was never short on bizarre, inventive beats, odd melodies and a veritable ***load of character, never cracked or compromised for anything. Two pieces of work who's creators really got their views across in enjoyable, irrepresible burts of creativity. "Dead Air", on the other hand, is a cesspool of half-hearted ideas and a collaborative writting style which only serves to muddle the work as a whole. He seems to be borrowing both ideas and narrative-voice from such dithering housewive's as Karin Slaughter - that ready-made, pre-packaged, easily-digestible style of writing is a million miles away from Bank's former hyper-literary and immensely-digressive style. Likewise, Dizzee's been busy not (as once was the case) penning quality lyrics which snake around and throttle the already maniacal and thrashing beat, but instead collaborating with the likes of Armand Van Halen ("Bonkers"), Calvin Harris ("Dance Wiv Me"). See, I could forgive this if it SEEMED collaborative: A give-and-take and passing of ideas between two artists in sync, attempting to create a cohesive whole from both of their ideas. These songs just seem like a track from the respective guest star, FEATURING Dizzee Rascal. Lyrical inaneness abounds, thanks to such masterful observations about the human condition like:
"Get your passport and your bikini
You need a holiday, come see me
I know you're tired of the same old scenery
And I could change all that so easily
Go wild, do your thing, yo take a chance
I'll take you to the South of France ....
If anyone can I can
We can go shopping in Milan."
And the beats, once a staple of Dizzee and a large factor in all the praise he once gleaned, have been replaced with soul samples/light electronica that eventually explodes into euphoria/techno madness, more often than not. I mean, obviously when I first heard "Bonkers", I loved it. Everyone did. It was catchy, it was daft, it was utterly forgettable lyrically. But the bass hooked us.
Then it was everywhere.
Part of the reason I hate this album so much MUST be from over-exposure - sure, I would never have found myself laying in a steamy bath with it, sipping wine and feeding it strawberries, but some of it was catchy enough ("Dance Wiv Me", in particular, has a fairly decent beat and, while lyrically it's still scraping the bottom of the barrell, it is a pure unbidden party tune, easily making it the best cut of the album) and "Dirtee Cash", while possibly being the worst offender lyrically and in posession of the most evidence regarding Dizzee's tired, uninteresting flow, has a classy sample, becoming quite toe-tapping when in the right mood.
I would rank both "Dead Air", and "Tonge N'Cheek", almost exactly equal in terms of how disappointed I found them then, and how plain annoying and not worthy of my time I find them now. However, I think "Tongue N'Cheek" may just edge past "Dead Air", on this scale; People don't chuck books at your head, laughing and pretending it's somehow enjoyable.
They do that with music, though.