[The Mail On Sunday, 2005]
TWO OTHER NAMES ineluctably spring to mind when you hear the latter-day garage of Audio Bullys. One is The Streets, who can be credited with reviving, redefining and setting the standard for urban (rather than Urban) British pop. The other is Nineties outfit Renegade Soundwave, whose raw, dubby tales of lowlife London find echoes throughout Generation (source **).
As Renegade Soundwave did with Probably A Robbery, Audio Bullys are struggling to live up to the impact of an early release; in their case, We Don't Care, which in 2002 snarled and jostled its way into public consciousness. Their reworking of Nancy Sinatra's Bang Bang, included here, may have sold more copies, but it's done the duo few other favours. It has the whiff of a novelty single about it, and the rest of the album lacks the substance to make up for it. Authenticity is only as much use as your ability to convey it. Keep On Moving is a rare convincing track on an album which too often takes a cold, concrete city and makes it seem like pasteboard.
That most people who know of John Cale do so thanks to his four year-stint in The Velvet Underground, rather than a solo career well into its fourth decade, is rather unfair. Cale's own catalogue is one of the most varied and intriguing of any major figure, and belies his reputation as an austere experimental aesthete; while his molasses-rich, at times sardonic Welsh baritone remains one of the more curious instruments in the rock canon.
One could as easily assemble a sprightly and poppy Cale anthology as a stern and demanding one, and blackAcetate: (EMI ***), despite its forbidding title, is very much in that spirit. Like any Cale album, this one certainly has its dark undercurrents. But it alternates these with a playful briskness, and shows a typically adventurous eclecticism. Cale has made plenty of odd, scattergun records, and this is yet another; but very seldom does he make a dull one.
Speaking of adventurous eclecticism: there aren't many rap producers through whose attics you'd fancy sifting for an hour. But Prince Paul, the man who sprinkled Hip Hop Gold Dust (Antidote ****) over De La Soul, Stetsasonic, Gravediggaz and Handsome Boy Modelling School, is the exception. All bar the last are featured on this superior collection of offcuts and curios, which is not only a pleasure in its own right, but also an engrossing record of hip hop evolution from Old Skool to its mid-90s creative peak.
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