Black Grape Pop Voodoo UMC
Black Grape formed from the ashes of Madchester heroes the Happy Mondays, defying expectations by bagging a number one album with their debut LP, It’s Great When You’re Straight…Yeah.
The album was released during the height of Britpop in 1994, and Black Grape – which included the Mondays’ Shaun Ryder and Bez alongside rappers Paul “Kermit” Leveridge and Carl “Psycho” McCarthy and a new band – were the odd ones out who shouldn’t have made it to the top. Theirs was a shambolic hodgepodge of styles, from acid house and indie rock to psychedelic pop, reggae and hip-hop, which was recklessly joyous in contrast to the carefully plundered nostalgia of the Cool Britannia brat pack. Black Grape’s 1997 sophomore Stupid Stupid Stupid didn’t quite hit the same highs of their debut, and the band dissolved the following year. Now Ryder and Kermit are back with a new Black Grape album in 2017, which has been spearheaded by a Trump (and Hillary Clinton)-skewering single called Everything You Know Is Wrong. It’s a worthy sentiment, but calling Hillary “an old bird who fucks up on her computer” is pretty offensive, and those dial-up internet tones just sound naff. Elsewhere, Set The Grass On Fire sounds like the precocious lovechild of Beck, Mark E. Smith and the Austin Powers soundtrack, while Whisky, Wine and Ham tries, but fails, to delve into laid-back lounge jazz.
There are some enjoyable moments, notably the downtempo slink of Money Burns and the organ-led psychedelia of the Happy Mondays-esque Nine Lives. But Ryder’s rhyming wears thin over the course of the album. “He can outrun a rabbit/ find something and grab it,” he barks on Shame, while sing-speaking: “I’m digging a hole/ I’m out of control” on Losing Sleep.
The heady mishmash of styles that helped Black Grape stand out from their peers is a returning point of interest, but this record lacks the glue that helped their debut stick. Throughout Pop Voodoo, Shaun Ryder’s lyrics often descend into absurdist territory, and the album is simply lacking in bangers to back up the banter.