Album review: Rusko - 'OMG!' (Mad Decent)

Dubstep's controversial wild child creates a full-on party album - just a shame it's so crude and unsophisticated

Album review: Rusko - 'OMG!' (Mad Decent)

In life there are few certainties, but here’s one: there’s always going to be drunk people and they are always going to dance. Sure, you can theorise about the socio-historical implications of Britain’s club heritage until your spliff burns out, but the truth is that it’s really hard to get drunk and hug your mates to dubstep’s ghostly timbres and pensive, whale-belly sub-bass.

No-one knows this better than Chris Mercer who, since ‘Cockney Thug’’s melee of Guy Ritchie dialogue and plastic horns in 2007, has retooled dubstep into a bloody-nosed, tear-out noise; sloshing testosterone into the cavernous spaces until the mid-range bulged, the detail shrivelled, a grotesque mix of buzzsaw synths and masturbatory wobble. Here’s another certainty: the purists hate that.

Does Rusko care? Well, is naming your debut album ‘OMG!’ the action of a man who cares? While the self-appointed keepers of British electronic music steadfastly ignore his existence, he’s helping produce MIA’s next record. It would appear dubstep’s resident joker is having the last laugh. But should we hate him for that? On the strength of ‘OMG!’ it’s becoming increasingly difficult. Rusko has created a record that revels in its vacuousness, a descendent of the trashiness of electro house rather than cousin of anything on Tempa. He knows it’s as disposable as last night’s drug wrap before we can call him out on it.

To ram the message home he opens his debut with the schlocky ‘Woo Boost’, its squealing sirens and ribbed, sawing synths capturing that feeling of hacking your own head off with a blunt instrument. It’s so relentlessly stupid it defies criticism. But there’s more to Rusko than loutish samples and that wobble effect: ‘Hold On’ is UK garage with the contrast turned up, with Dirty Projectors’ Amber Coffman making the leap from thrift-shop cool to Moschino try-hard, her saccharine vocals cooing over saturated pads so damn chic you’d swear you can hear the fizz of cheap champagne. Plundering Britain’s dance history even further, ‘Kumon Kumon’ stands as a pretty accurate pastiche of 2 Bad Mice-style hardcore that shows just how versatile Rusko can be when he drops the reductive hyper-masculine shtick of such past monstrosities as ‘Get Ya Cock Out’.

That’s not to say Rusko has embraced good taste altogether, he’s just channelled that aggression. Where labels such as Hotflush have wooed the elegantly wasted of Europe, this is a record that courts the big room brashness of the US; Diplo’s Mad Decent label is the perfect home for Rusko’s dancefloor imperatives. On ‘Got Da Groove’, Rusko Auto-Tunes Gucci Mane to shrink fit around its low-slung weightiness, while ‘Feels So Real’ is a peak-time house record riddled with synthetic bounce that wouldn’t be out of place on the Ed Banger roster.

The problem with all this party exclamation-mark music is that it reminds you that you should be having fun, even when you’re not. On paper, the hook-up with Italian fidget housers Crookers on ‘Oy’ should have lived up to the cheekiness of its title; instead it’s weirdly sterile, a soundtrack to a party permanently stuck in the awkward stage between taking off your coat and pouring your drink. Also, you know how it can be embarrassing to say you like dubstep because people think of that WUMP WUMP WUMP sound? ‘I Love You’ justifies the shame you feel, the stigma only compacted by the washes of stock rave breakdown that are about as euphoric as the funeral of a loved one.

However, ‘OMG!’ reaches its nadir somewhere amid the crunked out monotone of ‘Scarewear’, a call to rub yourself raw against the concrete impact of unmoving midrange until self-respect is a distant memory. “Old skool to the back!” hollers Redlight, presumably so its spirit can leave the building forever. On an album characterised by its flaws, it’s these flaws that are the most unforgivable. ‘OMG!’ succeeds when you surrender to its gurning stupidity sure, but what happens when the fun is over? When those drunk people stop dancing? It’s not a laugh anymore, it’s just exhausting.

Louise Brailey

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Video: Rusko - 'Woo Boost'

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