Review Summary: The first unequivocal disappointment of 2010.
I was seriously beginning to believe that the notion of a difficult second album was nothing but mythology. We hear about it frequently, mostly from the pens of critics who imply that previously-revered bands have dodged a bullet when their sophomore record doesn't suck quite enough to say so out loud. Unfortunately, by coincidence or by design, I've now been forced to accept the legend as holding at least some truth, and it pains me to say that it's happened where I would have least expected it.
I didn't expect it because, frankly, Angles
was a stellar collection of intelligent songs which at perhaps one point in its entire runtime hinted at anything less than supreme skill and self-confidence on the part of spoken word (rapper?) Scroobius Pip. The bearded Englishman had a way of surprising, summed up most brilliantly by cult hit 'Thou Shalt Always Kill', a cutting and stunningly executed commentary on the perceived 'rules' people follow or ignore in day-to-day life. But that song is also the reason that Logic Of Chance
holds little to none of its predecessor's magic; see, for all the fantastic ideas contained on their debut LP, even the best cuts relied on gimmicks. 'Letter From God To Man' retold history through unfamiliar eyes; 'Magician's Assistant' and 'Tommy C' relied on late twists to shock and justify the build-up; 'Angles' itself told the same story from multiple perspectives to raise the intensity. On Logic Of Chance
, Pip appears to be struggling for the same standard of gimmick; simply and ironically enough, he's run out of angles
Strangely, the other half of the duo - beat-maker and electronic artist Dan Le Sac - appears to have upped his game. Although there is nothing here that rivals the festering violence of 'Magician's Assistant's backdrop, the drums and samples he employs are arguably more consistent and varied than previously. But perhaps it's a shift in the songwriting focus which sees much of the material here fall flat; Pip no longer sounds like he has time or composure enough to manipulate his words in the way he wants, instead cramming far too many syllables into claustrophobic rhythms, a process which at its most generous does not suit his conversational and accented vocal styling. One of the record's best cuts, 'Great Britain', debatably achieves that status through the way Pip takes his time
in the second verse to deliver his point. There are other possible reasons why track four is such a standout, though - namely that it's a dancy track which blows away mid-tempo snorefest 'Cauliflower' musically, and that it's one of the few songs here where the poet has something he genuinely wants to say. Unfortunately, even that gets diluted, as he claims 'and whilst this might seem over-simplistic, we need to fight this and resist it!' ... about knife crime. It does sound over-simplistic, and that's not something any fan of Angles
would ever have expected to hear of this duo.
Elsewhere, 'Get Better' is a generic and mellow grower, a sort of spoken-word ballad, but it never says anything unexpected. And the list goes on, uninspired topics plaguing the track listing in a way which both disappoints and, honestly, bores. The worst thing about Logic Of Chance
is that it puts Angles
in something of a lesser light, or at least threatens to do so. It highlights how much those songs - gorgeous and honest as they were - lived and breathed off the back of their initial concepts rather than the arresting or captivating flow or bond between the two halves of the duo. On their 2010 effort, Pip is a comedian with no set-up, a politician with no manifesto; it's a shame, because it really seemed like these guys might be set to take off, but this record makes it difficult to get excited about anything other than the things they did two years ago.