Jan 052010
Spitting sarcasm and a slightly unconvincing rage? Check
Madonna/whore view of women? Check
Ambivalence toward violence? Check
Inability/unwillingness to shake off a narrow range of US influences? Check
Arrogance/self-doubt in equal measure? Check
Clumsy humour? Check
Magpie-pilfering from a rag-bag of genres? Check
Yep, on cursory listen, everything’s in place on Dizzee’s third album for it to be the perfect 2007 white indie-band release. Except, of course, it’s not white and it ain’t indie and things are far more complex than lazy rock journalist parodies.
This is the boy who stole from across the ocean, filtered, fucked and freed both the good and the bad, injected Brit knowingness and a desire to tell stories that no-one/everyone’s heard before and came up with something that, for the last three or four years has promised (and, more often than not, delivered) new voices, new accents, new dialects, new languages.
This is the teenager who threw scattering, shattering shards of spleen at white listeners’, white reviewers’ comfort and conceits.
This is the man who frightened us (black and white, young and old) by holding up mirrors to our own views of women, our own ambivalence toward violence, our own racism, our own arrogance and self-doubt.
This is the big star who’s made a pop album.
Maths and English is, at heart, grime and hip-hop and rap, still. But much of it feels more rounded, more expansive, less coherent, less edgy and less certain than before. Things are wider, more finger-tip connected (both willingly and reluctantly) with the world outside Rascalville; it’s far less successful than Boy In Da Corner and Showtime as a result. No getting away from it: as, say, with Mike Skinner’s third, the price of fame is … ambivalence.
Downbeat, reserved and a little apologetic, opener World Outside sets out DR’s stool: he wants the best of all worlds – connecting and disengaging, macho and sensitive, old and new, adolescent and grown-up. The rest of the album suggests it ain’t going to be easy: we’ve got familiarly intelligent Dizzee rant and ramble; we’ve got old/new-style, more edgy Dizzee boundary-pushing … and we’ve got embarrassing you’re-better-than-this-mate nursery rhymes

This- they say- is the raw, real sound of London.

‘I got shit I wanna share with you …’
Pussy’ole (Old Skool) sees Dizzee leap backwards into West Coast-style dissing: doing nothing he ain’t done – and loads of others ain’t done – a dozen times before, it’s still righteous, unhappy and swaggering, brutal and bassy and cool. Sirens – the current single – is an enjoyably cartoonic stop-start semi-comic tale of coping with hassle from the police,  metallic riffing and snapshots interspersed with blimey-Dizzee-how’d-you-come-up-with-an-idea-like-that? siren effects. The horny and writhing Flex is woman-celebrating/pleading garagey quick-stepping, all heavy/light float, flow and fun. Excuse Me Please‘s baffled pleas(e) for social justice and equality (far, far away echoes of Gaye and Marley) are naive, neat and natty and wrapped up in a slow-funk rhythm: bordering on, never quite crossing into, the school-playground nonsense elsewhere, its delicate bass and beats drag it outwards, help it escape the pit of fuzzy, fizzy weasel words.

Tricks and talk and taste and tautness and threat: all good, all to-be-expected. But:

‘There’s got to be more than this …’

The power and purity and focus of the best of those tracks are taken a step forward in the three finest moments here: the Dizzee fidgeting is made majestic on Paranoid – manic, hyperventilating, subtle, an oddly Can/Eno-like undertow. Temptation‘s collaboration with Alex Turner – ruined only slightly by the superfluous insertion of Alex Turner’s bits – is sweet and intriguing and lilting. You Can’t Tell Me Nuffin’ is disorientating, sharp and punch-in-the-face press-press-pressing. This is the sound of someone special …
‘I’m young, black, rich and ruthless’
Bringing us to the not-quite-crap tracks. Da Feelin’ is simple summer samplin’ soul – lightly buttered, r’n’b-textured, playful, lyrically it’s a mess: silly optimism, silly half-jokes, silly betrayal of a legacy of wordsmithery that had put DR right up there. Bubbles‘ ode to Nike shoes – black-youth-targeted icon-items from the company that’s done more than most to present itself as freedom-bringer whilst shafting the dispossessed – is horrible, soul-sold nonsense masquerading behind a ‘rebellious’ harshness. Hard Back (Industry)‘s dully monochrome clothes hide a body that’s flat and flabby: it’s basically Dizzee droning on, a sub-punk/toasting poor-me guide to how-to-be-a successful-star-and-not-get-screwed-by-The-Man that just about avoids embarrassment.  Far, far worse, Where’s Da G’s is a simplistic, adolescent faux-hard man assault (with pointless guest raps) that tries to have its gangsta cake and eat it. Suk My Dick is (mostly) deeply, childishly embarrassing (unless – please God – he’s taking the piss?). Wanna Be’s Dizzee-goes-Chas’n’Dave happy-chavvy singalong with Lily Allen – now there’s REAL London for you – is achingly, majestically naff – the sound of hard work and integrity unravelling. I urge you never, ever to listen to this song (though you may have no choice …)
Sublime, then, and ridiculous. Maybe Dizzee really is – still – the true, raw sound of LDN: very young and very old, local-proud and US-colonised, cool and painfully self-conscious, casually-violent and casually-weak, all power and pretence, anger and ambivalence, alienation and self-obsession, questing and assimilating. But he could be so much better. And – worse – he knows it.
Release date: 04/06/07
Artist website: www.dizzeerascal.co.uk
Label: XL

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