With 2009's Tongue n' Cheek, Dizzee Rascal demonstrated how ably his rapscallion charm could cross over to a mainstream audience. But four years is a long time in street pop, and The Fifth demonstrates how quickly that same charm can curdle.
It's not that it's a particularly bad album, just that the more maverick elements that gave Dizzee his engaging appeal have been ironed out, possibly in the hunt for a broader transatlantic audience. While tracks like the saucy "Arse Like That" and the London-celebrating "Love This Town" are still, in their own ways, proudly parochial. And the fairly routine nature of the backing tracks means that The Fifth lacks some of the distinctive berserker spirit that characterised its predecessors.
Take "Goin' Crazy", the duet with Robbie Williams: it's a pleasant enough striding groove, but its protestations of lunacy are nowhere near as potent as "Bonkers", which may be why it struggled to reach the top five as a single - though even that modest performance outstripped the three other tracks released as singles, including the hysterical "Bassline Junkie", Dizzee's aggressive assertion of his love for "big dirty stinkin' bass".
One of the more interesting grooves is the wheezing synth pulse of "Superman", built around samples from Laurie Anderson's "O Superman", adapted to support Dizzee's work ethic: "I'm an over-achiever, and I could do with a breather". Not, of course, that he lacks recreational skills: the majority of the album is given over to fun time, from the Caribbean beach boast "Life Keeps Moving On" to "We Don't Play Around", which proclaims exactly the opposite, an insatiable appetite for partying, "gettin' high on my birthday stash/ I just wanna have a good time and get smashed".
This, perhaps, is the most disappointing aspect of The Fifth: the disappearance of the more thoughtful side revealed in older tracks like "Can't Tek No More". It's as if, like some rap cliché, Dizzee's been taken hostage by his own earlier hedonist litany of "money money money, girls girls, cash cash". Which is, frankly, far more fun for him than for us.
Download: Superman; Love This Town; Bassline Junkie