Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Album Review: "The Defamation of Strickland Banks" - Plan B

This year, more than ever, I've been turning my back on British music. Having a blog called "EuropeCrazy" might be an indication that this is a deliberate choice, but I can definitely assure you it's not. I want British music to be good, to be great, to be innovative - not for any particularly patriotic reason, but purely because I'm a music fan, and I want to love good music wherever it's from. So I'm particularly delighted with the success of Plan B, who is one of the very few new acts who have broken through this year who are actually worth bothering about.

Versatility is also a talent to be treasured. When Plan B kicked off his music career as a gritty rapper, his music had completely passed me by at that point. The last thing you'd have expected was for his next step to be a retro-soul revelation. Who knew that he had such a fabulous white soul falsetto voice?

My first encounter with Plan B, mk II, was on hearing "Stay Too Long" and it literally stopped me in my tracks. With its Northern Soul-type beat (an immediate winner for me), bursting with urgency, it seemed to perfectly capture the spirit of a 'lads night out'.

The unusually titled album is that very un-2010 concept, a concept album, about an innocent man found guilty of a crime he didn't commit and he's sent hence "Welcome To Hell"...and things get darker for the main protagonist. Yet despite the dark theme, Plan B has taken up residence on many a radio playlist thanks to the massive, catchy hit "She Said" although I prefer the follow-up, "Prayin'" which might I suggest owes a great big debt to "Beggin'" - another song which I completely love, so borrow from the best I say!

Whilst listening to this album I thought of another former favourite of this blog - Daniel Merriweather, whom I had high hopes for but his debut album was an overall disappointment. Dare I suggest that "The Defamation Of Strickland Banks" was the album that Merriweather should have made.

A further indication of Ben Drew's versatility is that he will now turn his back on the retro-soul sound for his third album, "The Ballad of Belmarsh" which will be a hip-hop album. Clearly he doesn't 'stay too long' (groan) with the same musical style!

"The Defamation...." meanwhile accurately captures a 60s soul sound and updates it for the 21st century - and defines 'soul' in the true sense, rather than the soul-less drivel which has hijacked that term in recent years. Well done Plan B.

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