Saturday, 7 March 2009

'Better Than Heavy' - Mongrel (album review)

Mongrel’s ‘Better than Heavy’ made history today as it was the first debut album to be given away free by a national newspaper. I picked up a copy and whilst I browsed news of Mandelson’s green custard attack and the like my ears were entertained by the sounds of Mongrel.

At 11 tracks and 40 minutes long it’s not a daunting listen although opener ‘Barcode’ really throws the listener in at the deep end with it’s female raps (courtesy of Pariz1 and Tor Cesay), hectic instrumentation and conspiracy theory message. ‘Lies’ continues with the album’s overtly political message as mainstay rapper Lowkey articulately outlines his political beliefs. Reverend and the Makers frontman Jon McClure provides his Northern vocals on the chorus, sounding not unlike Ian Brown, a sound continued on the Stone Roses-esque ‘Julian’.

The politics continue, after party time/love song ‘Hit From The Morning Sun’, on the catchy ‘The Menace’, a song that’s already a firm favourite of this reviewer. ‘Act Like That’ is a vitriol against everyone who’s peddling a rosy image of criminal lifestyles, the government, American rappers and films all come under the wrath of guests Purple, Kyza, No.Lay, Logic and Mic Righteous. ‘Alphabet Assassins’ sees the band drafting in a few more MCs, 16 to be precise, to rework Lowkey’s own version of this concept track – Wretch 32, Doc Brown, Deadly Hunta, Stylah, Kyza and SkinnyMan all feature. SkinnyMan also appears on ‘Better Them Than Us’.

Fans of the bands whose members are involved may be disappointed, there’s no Artic Monkeys, no Reverend and the Makers and no Babyshambles influences evident here. As Hip Hop goes, the instrumentals provided by the musicians are perfect, so for me it works.

‘Better Than Heavy’ will be released properly on the 23rd of March as a double CD (the other CD is called ‘Better Than Dub’) and is available to preorder on Wall Of Sound from for the bargain price of £6.99.

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