Back in the late ’70s, it was a pretty ambitious move for a scrawny Bronx teenager to give himself the title Grandmaster Flash
3/7 The Bridge Back in the late ’70s, it was a pretty ambitious move for a scrawny Bronx teenager to give himself the title Grandmaster Flash. But Joseph Saddler more than lived up to that snazzy handle, his mixing wizardry redefining the role of the turntable and laying the foundation stones of hip hop. Not for nothing was he inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.
It feels a little like heresy, then, to say that Flash’s new album – his first in 20 years – sounds a little dated. The Bridge is not by any stretch bad, with its pantheon of rappers including such old-guard greats as Snoop Dogg, Q-Tip and Busta Rhymes. There’s just nothing new, weird or innovative in the arrangements to give today’s trailblazers a run for their money. ‘We Speak Hip Hop’ is about (you’ve guessed it) the universality of hip hop, delivered in different languages by Afasi, Kase-O and KRS-One, over a Rocky-style brass salute. It’s a very literal way of looking at kids coming together around the world, compared with, say, the insane musical mangle of Buraka Som Systema’s beats or MIA’s magpie approach to sampling.
Then there are Flash’s deliberate attempts to be of the now, as on ‘When I Get There’, which features Big Daddy Kane drawling, ‘Instead of sexin’ each other, we’re just textin’ each other’ – awkward stuff. Unsurprisingly, the album’s better moments are the deck-led tracks where Flash is left – literally – to his own devices. Sophie Harris. Available at www.7digital.com
5/7 Invaders Must Die The biggest-selling act in dance-music history rages harder than virtually any guitar band you can name these days. With the buzz issuing from the current crop of electro-rock, the fifth album from The Prodigy is suddenly more of a fashionable event than the last. Their sound might have started fires in the ’90s, but it’s taken a decade for the next generation – like Invaders collaborator James Rushent of Does It Offend You, Yeah? – to pick up the mantle.
For a band accused of making kiddie techno during the rave era, The Prodigy came a long way by continually upending the established order. Adhering to an uncompromising vision of hard-edged dance, the group unintentionally made a mark on rock. They avoided the band format, yet one of its dancers, the impish Keith Flint, became the public face and presumed frontman. Although The Prodigy remains the vision of producer Liam Howlett, for the first time in years, Flint’s contribution is integral.
Fans of The Fat Of The Land won’t lack for moshing moments. Howlett builds tracks off monstrous, jagged arpeggiating bleats and visceral drums, the dynamic and anthemic ‘Colours’ has huge hooks and punk-rock breakdowns, and Dave Grohl lends explosive drum-kit work to the fearsome ‘Run With The Wolves’.
It’s all so deliciously gnarly that it needs a few soft spots. ‘Piranha’ combines the garage riffs of a ’60s rave-up with spooky Theremin, while the closer, ‘Stand Up’, sounds like The Go! Team dreaming in a sunflower field leased by the Chemical Brothers. Both serve to remind us that behind the chainsaw synths and neon Mohawks lie not just skull-shaking beats but also soul-rattling songs. John Dugan. Available at www.7digital.com