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Groove Armada - Soundboy Rock

Groove Armada, Soundboy Rock

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

GROOVE Armada duo Findlay and Cato have described their latest album Soundboy Rock as “a celebration of dance music’s vibrant versatility”. And it certainly fits the criteria, mixing some crunching dancefloor fillers with ambience, chillout, party anthems and even a slab of reggae at one point.

The result is a hip, funky offering that continues to stretch and refine the Groove Armada sound, while providing listeners with a veritable treasure trove of styles.

Not everything appeals but given the scope of its ambition and the impressive line-up of collaborators, the highs far outweigh the lows to ensure that Soundboy Rock emerges as one of the best dance albums of the year so far…

Initially, Cato and Findlay worked separately on the tunes for this fifth studio album – Cato in Spain, in the studio he’s dubbed The Sweatbox, and Findlay in the space he calls The Tom Tom Club in the basement of his house in Hackney.

Musical files were emailed back and forth until 19 tracks, mostly instrumentals, were put together.

Then, last August, Cato went to New York to record contributions from a dreamteam of rappers and vocalists.

Soul queen Angie Stone sat at the piano with the Groove Armada man, chain-smoking and exhaling lyrics over the punchy rhythms of Feel The Same As You (one of two bonus tracks), while back in Europe Rhymefest – a recent recruit to Mark Ronson’s label – added whipsmart hip hop block-party vibes to the pneumatic funk of The Girls Say.

Back in London, Findlay was working with (ex-Sugababe) Mutya Buena and hit songwriter Karen Poole. The result of the former collaboration was <>I>Song 4 Mutya, a huge, jump-around pop tune that’s sure to dominate dancefloors and airwaves all summer.

While back in Spain, Cato invited MAD – the voice on Superstylin’ and their live MC – to jam over some records. He came up with the phrase Soundboy Rock, Cato figured it sounded like “a classic reggae chorus”, so out came Cato’s bass (for “a proper reggae rumbling bassline”) and in came Hard-Fi’s Richard Archer on melodica. Cue the title track, packing a laidback reggae wallop in the middle of the album.

Elsewhere, Tony Allen – formerly of Fela Kuti’s band and currently featuring in The Good, The Bad And The Queen line-up with Damon Albarn – agreed to chip in, as did Candi Staton.

Her gutsy vocal and Allen’s bewitching drumming, as well as rolling piano chords and stabs of strings, combine to dazzling effect on the Philly-esque soul classicism of Paris.

And Candi pops up again on the dancefloor dynamite of Love Sweet Sound.

Further collaborators came in the form of Simon Lord (from Simian Mobile Disco) on The Things That We Could Share and Alan Donohoe (of The Rakes) on See What You Get.

Jeb Loy Nichols, meanwhile, supplies croony folk-vibes to What’s Your Version?, while Findlay’s Sugardaddy collaborator Tim Hutton supplies the chorus.

So what of the hits and misses? Let’s take the negatives first – lead single Get Down emerges as one of the biggest disappointments, featuring the chewy vocals of Stush, a female MC from London, and a soaring disco-carnival vibe. It’s energetic enough but there’s just something missing – much like on the reggae heaby title track.

And Drop That Thing is a hard dance track that lacks much soul or character. The urban-style vocals are hopelessly generic. You know why they dropped it and who they’re appealing to – but it just doesn’t work with the rest of the album.

Like we said earlier, though, the positives are in greater supply. Lord’s indie-style vocals lend The Things We Could Share a nice crossover edge.

What’s Your Version? is a classic slice of folksy chill out that’s delivered in the style of a Zero 7 hook up with Mozez, Paris is one of the most beautiful records on the album, complete with a cinematic sweep, and Rhymefest’s natural flow adds a nicely upbeat vibe to the party anthem The Girls Say.

Lightsonic, meanwhile, emerges as a blip-heavy dancefloor anthem that’s clever enough to soundcheck the style that made Freestylin’ such a big hit for them.

And Song 4 Mutya is a hopelessly infectious, radio-friendly monster smash in waiting that offers a real head-rush of a single.

Hats off to Groove Armada, then, for ensuring that Soundboy Rock never sits still for too long and contains enough diversity to appeal to almost every dance fan out there.

Download picks: The Things We Could Share, The Girls Say, Paris, What’s Your Version?, Song 4 Mutya, Lightsonic, Feel The Same As You.

Track listing:

  1. Hasta Luego Mr. Fab
  2. Get Down
  3. The Things We Could Share
  4. Save Our Soul
  5. What’s Your Version?
  6. Paris
  7. Love Sweet Sound
  8. The Girls Say
  9. Lightsonic
  10. Soundboy Rock
  11. Drop That Thing
  12. Song 4 Mutya (Out Of Control)
  13. From The Rooftops
  14. See What You Get
  15. What’s Your Version? (Reprise)

Bonus Tracks:

  1. Feel The Same
  2. Hands Up

  1. cool

    Vlatko    May 20    #