Groove Armada - Soundboy Rock
Of all the big dance acts to form in the 1990s, Groove Armada have arguably the weakest identity, as well as perhaps the lowest number of recognisable tunes. Their fifth studio album Soundboy Rock sees them make an advantage of this relative anonymity; Tom and Andy genre-hop shamelessly to produce what sounds like a better greatest hits album than their "best of" released a couple of years back.
Although much of Soundboy Rocks seems somewhat recycled (either recalling previous material of their own or other artists'), it retains enough freshness and enthusiasm to be an enjoyable listen in its own right. For example, The Things We Could Share, featuring a vocal from Simon Lord of Simian Mobile Disco, is a Basement Jaxx style carnival romp that easily beats anything from Simon and Felix's last album. Later, they return to the reggae influences which served them so well on Superstylin’. Lightsonic is a similar slice of electro-dub (if not quite as charged), while the title track sticks more to the classically laidback reggae template.
Veteran Candi Staton, arguably the most famous name on the long collaborator roll call, appears twice. Love Sweet Sound is a bright disco-house number. Paris, with its rolling drums, piano and strings, bears more than a slight resemblance to Sebastien Tellier's epic chill out piece La Ritournelle. Still, if you're going to "borrow", you may as well borrow from a truly great tune (and one that relatively few people have heard).
Song 4 Mutya (yes, as in the ex-Sugababe) manages the task of being uncharacteristic in a diverse album. It's a tongue-in-cheek top-drawer pop song, and not the sort of thing you might expect from Groove Armada at all. See What You Can Get shoehorns in some indie credibility by featuring Alan Donohoe of The Rakes, yet this rather funky number ends up both sonically and lyrically resurrecting the early 90s spirit of Stereo MC's.
It's very tempting to work your way down the track listing of Soundboy Rock and write "could be a big hit" after at least fifty percent of the songs. What resembles a hodge-podge of ideas at first soon forms a surprisingly addictive dance/pop/chill out album. Okay, it might not be as deep and satisfying as Neon Bible, but Arcade Fire won't have 'em dancing in fields, on beaches and in clubs all summer.