Record of the Week: Black Grape – Pop Voodoo

Sometimes you wonder why bands reform. The magic isn’t there, even if the money is. Not all reunions are pointless; indeed some bring a tinge of nostalgia to the air and make you wonder if the years in-between might have been better spent making the third album.

Happy Mondays were one of those bands whose reunion, to me at least, seemed – not pointless – ill-advised. I’ve a confession; I enjoyed the Mondays, with brilliant shambles of a live show but if I’m honest, It’s Great When You’re Straight…Yeah wore better than any of the Mondays albums. Very much products of their time.

Pop Voodoo I approached with some trepidation. The verbal sparring of the original Black Grape releases were a major part of their appeal, as were the groovy rhythm. To paraphrase Jools Holland, Black Grape remain “groovy fuckers”.

The hallmarks of the early 90s have been updated; parts of this could be Acid Jazz for the 21st century, notably Sugar Money. Basslines, at once insistent and laidback – Money Burns, as well as Shame – hit the mark, reminiscent of Ashley & Jackson’s Solid Gold particularly on Whiskey, Wine and Ham. While the production is smoother than the previous efforts, there’s no dilution of the sound; it isn’t muted or sinking into the background.

Shaun Ryder’s stream of consciousness lyrics have grown up and taking aim at the U.S. president is the first time I can recall an overtly political message in his words.

Irvine Welsh, roped into writing the band’s biography to accompany this release, declared,

The world is in a bit of a state right now, and bullshit reigns more than ever, and perversely disguised as candour. We need Manc street sass, intelligence and wit more than ever right now. This album has that in spades.

No argument from me, Irvine. It’s a cracking release and well worth the praise it is garnering in reviews.

Listen to the album below; you can buy Pop Voodoo on vinyl or cd.

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