Elliot Gleave forges into new areas but still overdoes the bland bangers
Example, aka Elliot Greave, may be a pop sensation in the UK, with two Number One hits and thousands of album sales to his name, but he remains an unusual star. So far, he has transitioned from MC to Pet Shop Boys-collaborating pop royalty. This fifth album, his first for a major-label, marks another change – whereas before he’d sing and rap over EDM-tinged tracks, here he decides to largely can the rapping that made his name, spitting barely a handful of verses, and delivers a record of relentless club bangers featuring choice ’90s dance influences, Disclosure-esque house production and a collaboration with The Klaxons’ Jamie Reynolds (the bonus track ‘Innocent Minds’). All topped off with Greave’s quite likeable croon.
This willingness to experiment should be applauded, and it’s fun (at first) to play spot the influences: ‘Next Year’ kicks the album off with Example aping an Oasis vocal over a Prodigy beat. That gives way to the saccharine sweet trance synths of ‘Kids Again’, which runs into the Italo house pianos and garage swing of ‘One More Day (Stay With Me)’.
But while the style may vary, the tone rarely does. Bar a moody-ish late-album spell, everything is designed for maximum rave uplift, displaying not so much light and dark, as light, more light and Day-Glo. The lyrics, too, tend towards the ear-rinsingly bland (as showcased on the single ‘One More Day (Stay With Me)’ “another lesson learned, another page is turned” etc.) as if Example wants to hide behind disco platitudes. And on the few occasions here he does resort to rap, there is a palpable feel of grudging ‘will-this-do’?
It’s not all bad: when it harvests its ideas from the ‘90s – particularly Underworld’s prog house classic ‘Mmm Skyscraper I Love You’ (on ‘At Night’) and The Future Sound Of London’s ‘Papua New Guinea’ (on ‘Longest Goodbye’) – there’s a sense that Example’s fifth album could have been something quite unique. Instead, ‘Live Life Living’ is as hard to stomach as its tongue twister title is to pronounce.