Chase and Status - More Than Alot
Tue 18th Nov, 2008 Music Reviewsin
More Than Alot is an album with more than a lot of hype surrounding it. Some see it as an album that will save the tired DnB genre. Others scream that Chase & Status are the new Pendulum. And while Alot shares many of its components with the wildly successful Hold Your Colour, it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest it is some kind of miraculous saviour that will part the Red Sea and deliver DnB from (what some critics see as) its dubstep oppressors.
The album does have enough credible dubstep to rope in fans of the genre, and enough quality DnB to remind them of the genre’s greatness. But a lot of Alot sounds like we’ve heard it all before and on repeat listens its appeal wanes. There are some standout tracks, with Will and Saul (see what I did there, deep house fans?) kicking off with the superb liquid soul of Can’t Get Enough. That’s immediately countered by Music Club, a MOR track supposedly enhanced by an impersonation of a 60s toff describing how to make a drumnbass track. Jazz Club on The Fast Show, anyone? It’s been done, and Beardyman did it a lot better.
Three tracks in and it’s time for one of the album’s big genre hops, as emcee Kano spits over hip hop beats with the enjoyable Against All Odds. It’s a pretty spot on discourse on the attitude and violence that are souring life in London at the moment, and the track itself is a spot on hip hop smash. C&S continue to show their versatility when they return to DnB territory with Streetlife. Another corner of the genre is explored, this time it’s a more dubby sound, and it’s done very well.
C&S then head straight for Pendulum territory when they turn the Bpitch up with Smash TV (see what I did there, electro fans?). The track has two main ingredients; a sample of Axl Rose describing the inspiration for ‘Welcome to the Jungle’, and a massive DnBhook fed through a filter and spat out as staccato. Call me old-fashioned, but I’d rather be dancing like a maniac to a full-flavoured, booming bassline, than this semi-skimmed bit of artistic licence. C&S have tried many original things with Alot, but this, like the curious misspelling of the title, falls wide of the mark.
The next track is Pieces and there’s nothing original here. It’s Pendulum-by-numbers, and instantly engaging as such… but after a while gets a little old. It’s satisfying in the way a one night stand is, but ultimately unfulfilling for the same reasons. Oh well, at least such bitchy analogies segue neatly into my discomfort with the next track, Eastern Jam.
Owing to the current pick-of-the-week status dubstep is enjoying in Australia, Eastern Jam is probably the track that Chase & Status are best known for in these parts at the moment. While ripping apart a Hindu track from a Bollywood movie and flaying it with a heavy bassline is a genius move, it’s still a jarring change of pace in the middle of the album that doesn’t really work. Whereas the aforementioned inclusion of hip hop is a pleasant surprise, the dubstep is a left turn too far, and doesn’t work. Then again, I would say that, because unlike all the critics blaming dubstep for DnB’s (current, perceived) demise, I’m not so sold on the connection between the two. At the risk of earning a public decapitation by the Cool Hunters among the ITM community, dubstep doesn’t work on a club dancefloor, not even a drum n’ bass one. Drum n’ bass is dance music, dubstep is electronica.
Chase & Status have certainly provided some interesting contributions to electronica with the dubstep on this album – Eastern Jam is a fantastically original concept – but Alot is a far less cohesive record than it could have been because of it. It’s followed up by two throbbing liquid bombs, before we hear the Casiochord soul of Running. Yeah, I just made up that term, but it’s C&S who are the alchemists here, as the melody abruptly gives way to more dubstep beats. It’s another rapid, where-the-fuck-did-that-come-from change, and it doesn’t work.
It seems as if the bog standard dubstep wobble has been jammed into the album to pander to the genre du jour – something even dubstep fans have slammed the duo for. However, given the duo’s genre-busting discography, this is an unfair impression. I had to laugh, though, on my first run through the album, when Running gave way to Take You There, a syrupy sweet piece of liquid that has been visited by the Ghost of Flash In The Pan Past and smothered with some vintage garage lifted from the Artful Dodger’s dairy.
I know what you’re thinking, I’m a cynical old bastard, and this review is an unwarranted hatchet job. Sure, I might be cynical, but it is true that this album is littered with clichés – it’s easy to find fault with it. The hype on C&S also invites a bollocking – never mind the gushing fanbois, the album’s press release rips into Pendulum for selling out to rock music, names Tim Westwood as a fan, and makes the ridiculous claim that C&S have “already taken over the dubstep scene” with a single tune.
I guess with all the hype I was expecting a lot more from a supposed genre saviour. But in reality, while More Than Alot won’t ever feature in my list of favourite dnb releases, and while it’s not a cohesive or even floor-friendly album from start to finish, it’s jammed with brave originality that often hits the mark, a journey across the breadth of drum n’ bass and beyond, and a couple of liquid smashes that will silence any detractor of this still great genre.