Malakai – The Ugly Side Of Love (Invada/B-Block)
There is such tremendous potential for verve, humour, and pure exuberance when you work in a medium so nuanced and fragmentary as this, with samples and vocal hooks flying around like feathers in a fight. Malakai, the name plumped by two Bristol beat-suppliers, would have done well to take less time over developing the intricacies of their debut LP, for it is these intricacies that contribute to the feeling that we should be having more fun than we are listening to it. Geoff Barrow‘s influence, dare it be said, might not have been the healthiest on The Ugly Side Of Love. The Portishead man acts as executive producer here and appears to lend an air of gloom to the proceedings that, while intriguing, might have slugged the record slightly.
Warriors has, initially, no real need to be any busier than it is. The chorus jars with the verse as the uninformed/atonal vocals build in layers over the bluesy electric guitar chugs. An interesting effect is created, but the sheer buoyant/laconic charm of either guise renders the other a little void – a confusing listen. Theodor Adorno wrote, somewhat prematurely, that intricacies in popular music can’t exist to their fullest potential because the repetitive nature of the rhythms and sentiments make them mere background features. Though I’ve long disagreed with this since the dawn of a more stately and informed school of popular music post-war, it applies quite sweetly to this tune.
Throughout, humour begs to escape. Playful rhythms and wailing, Once Upon A Time In The West vocals beg to be noticed, but there is much murkiness to wade through. The natural dynamic contrast in the opening riff on Shitkicker is shrieking to be exploited, but it’s ignored. Elsewhere, the great tradition of the hip-hop skit is revived to completely unhilarious ends, with a war-time sandwich making scene seeming not only out of step with the record, but also just plain unfunny. If it’s a stab at aligning the record with British culture in some way, a juxtaposition with the readier, truer material elsewhere, then it fails by not making any statements about it verbally or otherwise. If it’s just fer laffs, it doesn’t work because it’s childish.
Consummately confounding, The Ugly Side Of Love doesn’t make the best of its more shambling, entertaining and downright danceable ideas. Labouring the muddiness of its milieu sounds like the work of Geoff Barrow (we could be wrong on that one, though), and it spoils what could have been an invigorating experience.
More info here, looks like this isn’t coming out for some time, but eventually it will on Invada/B-Block. I don’t know, though, I can’t find the press release. Malakai were on the Lily Allen TV show once. Whee!