The sounds rattling round the skulls of the NME staff this week
Plan B – ‘iLL Manners’
So just as advertised, after the airwave-pummelling soulboy phase comes the return to hip-hop. And grimey, back-alley, do-it-your-fucking-self hip-hop at that. The million square-shaped customers Ben Drew picked up with ‘…Strickland…’ are strongly advised to try before they buy. Plan B’s people are advised not to pre-order that second yacht just yet.
Which, conversely, is good news for those of us who preferred Plan B as the Biro-wielding, twisted storyteller of old. Here, having effortlessly become the most compelling pop star in Britain, he’s in social commentary mode – even if “commentary” drastically undersells how incendiary this musical trailer for his forthcoming feature film really is.
Over an infectious collage of string stabs, dubstep whirrs and intermittent breakbeats, he paints a warts-and-all picture of post-riots Britain, calls David Cameron a “stupid cunt” for telling people to hug a hoodie then throwing them all in jail, then blasts, “If you believe what you read in the papers, then council estate kids are scum of the Earth”.
Importantly, through all the fire being spat – and in stark contrast to the politicians he chastises – you can feel that Ben Drew really cares. ‘iLL Manors’ is about love as much as it is about hate. It’s also by a million miles the best thing Plan B has ever done.
Death Grips – ‘Get Got’
The most unlikely major label signing since – well, since Odd Future, probably – drop a taster from one of two albums projected this year on Columbia. ‘Get Got’ marks out this Sacramento avant-rap trio as not so much horrorcore as sciencefictioncore, a future shock of laser-strobing keys, slamming beats and MC Ride’s cracked flow, held together by white-knuckle tension.
Nicki Minaj ft Lil Wayne – ‘Roman Reloaded’
Worried you’d lost Nicki to pop-art plasticity? Let her remind you who’s the real deal. Over a grinding, stark beat, she seethes “Nicki pop? The only thing that’s pop is my endorsement op”, riding roughshod and raw over haters with lazily brilliant assistance from her label boss.
Radiohead – ‘Cut A Hole’
The opening night of Radiohead’s world tour saw them debut two new songs, of which ‘Cut A Hole’ is the most promising. An atmospheric, shifting gloomathon in the ‘Pyramid Song’ mould, it’s notable for featuring a proper, head-flung-back vocal from Thom, climaxing with some of his highest notes since ‘OK Computer’.
Rocket Juice & The Moon ft Erykah Badu – Hey Shooter
It sounds weird on paper, but the Damon Albarn/Flea/Tony Allen love-in actually works wonders on record. Despite having the RHCP man warbling away on bass, the quality of Damon’s melody pushes it to the next level – along with bedazzling vocals from Erykah Badu.
Rhye – ‘Open’
No-one knows who’s behind Rhye – for the internet promises it is “a somebody”, and that somebody has a voice much like Sade’s – but there’s no doubt that ‘Open’ is a thing of gentle beauty. Sufjan’s restless spirit mixes with Chris Taylor’s CANT’s disco sensitivity for a naive, mesmerising gem of a song.
Noel Gallagher – ‘Shoot A Hole Into The Sun’
When Noel let slip last month that his Amorphous Androgynous collab was “turning into a right saga”, we expected silence ’til 2013. But God moves in mysterious ways, and lo, here’s the first taster, a ’shroomed-up reworking of ‘If I Had A Gun…’. As “fucking far out” as promised, and a sign things are taking shape for NG/AA.
Willy Mason – ‘Restless Fugitive’
It’s hard to believe that his last album came out five years ago, but on his forthcoming new record Mason returns to finish a mysterious “particular narrative” that he started with his debut. ‘Restless Fugitive’ would suggest that’s redemption via romance, played out over meditative, desert-wide twangs.
Spiritualized – ‘Hey Jane’
So, Jason Pierce delivered a version of his new album ‘Sweet Heart Sweet Light’ to meet label deadlines, which he then pulled so he could carry on mixing it in secret. The chugging, nine-minute beauty of this cut suggests that while his judgement of diplomacy is goosed, he’s made the right call.
Mystery Jets – ‘Someone Purer’
While it’d be a stretch to herald ‘Someone Purer’ as the almighty comedown to the giddy electro-pop of MJ’s last album, ‘Serotonin’, it certainly finds Eel Pie Island’s rag-tag gang returning to a straighter indie rock’n’roll sound – while losing none of their trademark joyous bent.
This article originally appeared in the March 10th issue of NME