Review Summary: In doing everything that was expected of them on their debut, Chase & Status do nothing except tarnish their reputation
There's two things you should know about Chase & Status right off the bat: 1) they're Jay-Z and Pharell's favorite d&b superstars, and 2) they didn't always use to sound like this. Now this might seem like a strange introduction, but it'll serve its purpose in just a moment. Saul “Chase” Milton and Will “Status” Kennard have done pretty well for themselves in the relatively short time that they've been crafting beats. Following a steady stream of double A-sides and ep's that did the job of making the two lads a respectable force to be reckoned with, a debut album in the form of More Than Alot
was released. Dubious grammar aside, the album did well for itself, very well in fact. And you don't need to be a mathematics whiz to see why; their take on drum and bass was on an accessible level not seen since Rob Swire and the rest of his Pendulum troubadours decided electric guitars were a great idea. Strangely though, the comparisons to Australia's biggest (and to date, only) dance rock outfit were off the mark by a fair bit; yes, both outfits strove to open up the rusty hinged doors of d&b to a wider audience, but both went about it in completely different ways. Whereas Pendulum were busying themselves with the idea that transforming themselves into the nu metal of the electronic world was a smart one, Chase & Status were sticking to their roots, just dressing everything up a little bit. Despite one or two bumps in the road, More Than Alot
was by-the-numbers drum and bass, just given larger hooks and put out in the sun for a few hours. Depending on how you look at it, it was a great idea. Commercial appeal, and subsequent acclaim, and no credibility lost. And on top of that, it was just damn fun. It won't be remembered in five years time, but that's besides the point; for its time (and even up until the present day) it's still working its magic. It was the perfect display for their semi urban grit and not-so-subtle dance hooks, and before you could say “crossover success”, the stars came calling. Remember Rihanna's Rated R
album? Co-producer credit. Remember The Prodigy's Invaders Must Die
? Official remix. So that explains the superstar love. As for my second point; well, at the time the comparisons to Pendulum were something of a head scratcher. No More Idols
sadly reveals all those faceless commentators to be more or less, delayed prophets.
See, when you get a whiff of commercial appeal, going back to what you were doing before just sadly isn't going to cut it. And in a way, that's completely understandable. Anyone can be forgiven for wanting to reach a wider audience, it's how you go about doing that, that will ultimately justify your actions. And for Chase & Status' much discussed second outing, well it would seem that bending over backwards wasn't out of the question. But this new desire doesn't immediately reveal itself, as opener 'No Problem' is the perfect bridge to their debut album. Granted it sounded more alive and fulfilling nestled snugly amongst more volatile fare in Andy C's recent Nightlife 5
comp, it's still a relatively strong, albeit safe, beginning. Despite annoying reprieves into tribal drum patterns, the frantic and hyper thrust momentum of its drum and bass meets trance overdrive is dancefloor sensory overload, hyper kinetic and destabilizing. It's the next few numbers however, that transform More Than Alot
from “that great debut from two years ago” to “Chase and Status glory days”. It's in 'Fire In Your Eyes', and the gloriously unashamed 'Let You Go' where the Pendulum pilfering and the mainstream push becomes shockingly evident. Stadium sized synthesizers find themselves in a battle for their life as they are mercilessly drowned out by chugging and chunky nu metal-esque guitars and mid tempo bopping. 'Let You Go' would actually work as a moderately generous, yet still extraordinarily cheesy, dance anthem if the boys had refrained from dropping the tempo in mid sequence. Milton and Kennard are no strangers to dubstep; 'Saxon' saw them stealing Metallica's gun slinging anthem 'Wherever I May Roam' and drop it in a surge of bass and trigger happy alarms, and More Than Alot
' featured the wobbly juggernaut that was 'Eastern Jam' and the 1970's autobahn test drive of 'Running'. There they were used as simple yet effective breaks amidst the pummel and clash, the former a full descent into dubstep paranoia, and the latter an interesting detour in an already thoughtful retro clinger. Here it's everywhere; not to say that they lace up every track with stereo shattering bass and distorted wobble, but at every turn and in every cut the voids are filled with mid tempo trips, made up of stretched out guitar lines, stuttering and jagged. The boys were never innovative at the job, but was once a quirk is now a crutch to see them through.
The guest list is also a little worrying, yet ever so slightly inspired. Plan B is the obvious inclusion, his angsty collaboration with the lads was destined for a spot on this album long before the BBC started throwing words like “anthem” around. Sub Focus pops in for a visit (an artist more closely resembling their initial sound than anything of the Australian variety), as does Dizzee Rascal (and is anyone really surprised by his presence here). His standard bolstering fare falls flat against Tinie Tempah's more creative turn though, with his featuring on the apocalyptic dancefloor number 'Hitz' representing one of the more dynamic presentations of the album. The two biggest surprises on offer though are soul giant Cee Lo Green (who just sounds lost in the robotics, and more than a little absurd on 'Brixton Briefcase'), and White Lies, who add another entry to the list of indie bands trying their hardest at being relevant to the more urban inclined scene, and just come off sounding like all the artists before them – incredibly awkward. For all of the album's flaws though, the boys are able to not completely destroy their credibility entirely. 'Blind Faith' is almost perfect in its delivery, its reggae influences and anthemic inspirations working nimbly and furiously against its more shallow brethren, and 'End Credits' is still a guilt free joy. Whereas Pendulum's marriage of rock and electronic is ill-formed and uncomplimentary, C & S pull it off effortlessly here. Their simple approach to old skool rave works just as well on 'Time', with relative new comer Delilah providing the now requisite “angelic” female vocals. Lyrically, it's of little substance, but if dancefloor patrons ever gave a damn about lyrics then half of today's artists would be out of a job. But it's 'Midnight Caller' that presents the crux of the album, revealing in its three and a half minute run time that this album, does in fact, have a heart beating somewhere behind the sheen and all the gloss. Intriguingly intelligent and yet still borderline disturbing, the dragging beat reveals a distorted and slightly discomfiting backdrop that remarkably gels well with the mournful and hazy vocals. Out of place with the rest of the album, but purposefully designed to not fit in anywhere – blissfully paranoiac and hypnotizing.
On a purely production level, the album is a knockout. Chase and Status are well known for their attention to detail, and No More Idols
is no exception. Everything on offer has been polished to pristine condition, and delicately assembled. There isn't a jarring note or an out of time beat to be spotted at all, everything is taut and concise and compressed to absolute electronic perfection. How the album has been assembled isn't the issue here, it's the parts that make up the whole product that are set to make the frown lines of many a nightclub traveler more pronounced. We all want a bit of the good life of course, and we all want our piece of the sun, but the fact that the boys are more than adept at crafting intelligent and explosive tracks and have yet, seemingly forgotten this is more than just a small strike against their name. But hell, they'll sell millions, and do their dash across the music charts of all the countries who don't completely look down on drum & bass and they'll be incredibly successful. And I'll just sit here, and get just a bit more cynical.