Wednesday 4 April 2012

Labrinth - Electronic Earth

On the opening track of 'Electronic Earth', Labrinth invites us to "climb on board" as he takes us to "another planet...another destination".  Following, on previous single Earthquakehe claims "this is something they call a ground-breaker".  It's a brash and arrogant opening to an album that by no means lives up to these high expectations.

For one thing, though, Labrinth is the master of the middle eight.  From the acapella vocals of Earthquake, the jazz harmonies of Climb On Board or the breakdown in Treatment, these are often the most arresting moments of his tracks.  However, it also highlights a very formulaic approach to songwriting focused almost entirely on commercial success.

But 'Electronic Earth' is clearly poised to rake in the cash - especially if mentor Simon Cowell has anything to do with it, following his direct address in Earthquake.  This may be Labrinth's debut album, but he's already received considerable attention from his previous singles Let The Sun Shine and Earthquake, let alone his producing work on Tinie Tempah's 'Disc-overy' amongst others.  The production here is all autotuned vocals, synth hooks and dubstep beats.  It may be precisely what you'd expect, but it's also well executed.  The drum and bass beat of Climb On Board; the catchy chorus melody of recent single Last Time; the almost Linkin Park-esque Sweet Riot; or the grime feel of Sundown that steals the melody from Big Yellow Taxi - it encompasses a variety of styles that neatly sum up the current state of pop-RnB.

From its strong opening, 'Electronic Earth' does take a dip in the middle with a reworking of Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band's Express Yourself and the already overplayed, polished Let The Sun Shine.  The weakest moment though is the ballad duet with Emeli Sande Beneath Your Beautiful.  You'd be forgiven for thinking this is a grammatical error, but with the dreadful lyric "Take it off now girl, take it off now girl, I wanna see inside", it takes on a whole other, more gynecological, meaning.  And this is just one example of Labrinth's awful attempts at wordplay - "Hey Grandma, say what's that noise, it's a lot of hot girls and a bag of boys" being another.  Lyrics are not a strong point of Labrinth's output.

Climb On Board is an obvious next single, to stand alongside the other tracks already released - though nothing quite hits the powerful tremors of Earthquake.  Ultimately this is an album of well produced tracks that, rather than transporting us to another time and place, are emphatically rooted in the here and now.


Gizzle's Choice:
* Climb On Board
* Earthquake
* Sweet Riot

Listen: 'Electronic Earth' is available now.