Pop Albums: Black Grape Stupid Stupid Stupid Radioactive RARD 11716

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Indy Lifestyle Online
When Shaun Ryder was asked what the idiot-dancing Bez actually did in Black Grape, he claimed his friend provided invaluable help in shaping the band's grooves. The release of Stupid Stupid Stupid renders the departed dancer's contribution more palpable - for all its surface similarities to the splendid It's Great When You're Straight...Yeah!, this album simply doesn't move like it should. The beats are big and lollopy, but there's no sway to its soul, no twitch to its funk.

The grooves are densely-layered, strewn with popping percussion, chunky guitar riffs, the occasional horn section and all manner of distracting novelty, from sitars to duck-calls, but it seems over-egged and straining for effect where its predecessor hung together with a natural flow. The tunes, too, lack the immediacy of those on the band's debut, which throws the emphasis all the more on to the scattershot rapping of Kermit and Psycho, and particularly on to Shaun Ryder's vocals, which are also less convincing than the last time round. In every department, it's a pale copy of the original Black Grape formula.

It's not entirely bereft of fun, of course: the single "Get Higher" features a Ronald Reagan anti-drug speech cleverly edited to sound like an admission that he and Nancy are wild-eyed dope-fiends, which is a chuckle; but the band's chorus "Got to get stronger/ To get higher" just sounds limp and half-hearted by comparison.

The album's shortcomings are most starkly outlined on "Lonely", a cover of Frederick Knight's soul classic "I've Been Lonely For So Long". It's the best tune here by some distance, but in place of the original's winsome charm, Ryder & Co have substituted a boozy shoutalong entirely out of keeping with its sentiments, making it sound less like a lovelorn plea than a drunken dosser's boast. There's always been an element of that in the Black Grape style, but here it overwhelms them completely, as if determined to bear out the album's title. More dumbed-down than drugged-up.