‘Toast To Our Differences’ is a hard album to dislike, but you could probably have a go. The charges against London drum and bass collective Rudimental’s third album: it’s too long (16 tracks), musically all over the place (veering from Littlewoods advert pop-house to Smooth Radio schmaltz) and, above all, wants so hard to be liked that it sounds like an earnest school project. However: for its occasional tedium, it would take a hard heart indeed to reject this record.
Every single track boasts a notable featured artist. (When you scan the tracklist and see that rapper Stefflon Don and soul star Ray BLK both grace ‘Scared Of Love’, the natural reaction is to anticipate a pop banger for the ages; instead it’s anodyne chart fodder ready-made for Yates’.) This creates sense of inclusivity that reflects the album’s message. The title track sees newcomer Shungudzo beam, “Let’s raise a glass / And toast to our differences’”, a simplistic but affecting sentiment, given what a shit-tip the world is right now. The group’s Amir Amor has explained that “celebrating our diversity is a key message of the band… There’s a lot of emphasis put on dividing people at the minute, so we’d like to celebrate our differences instead of getting angry.”
And ‘Toast To Our Differences’ is bound to bring people together. It probably should have come out in summer, its sunny rhythms ready made to be played in the background at a family barbecue, but the album’s highlights are so brashly optimistic that they inevitably raise a smile. The warped vocal that ushers in the frenetic ‘Dark Clouds’ sounds like a Kidz Bop version of Tupac’s ‘California Love’, while ‘They Don’t About Us’ is a classy slowjam about the power of community.
Second single ‘These Days’, an unashamed piano-led schmaltzfest from Jess Glynne and Mackelore, is preceded by a beautiful acapella version from South African male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. It’s literally – literally – impossible to dislike. That Stefflon Don and Ray BLK track epitomises the album’s filler (see also: the gaudy fairground sounds of James Arthur’s ‘Sun Comes Up’), but overall this is an effective ode to everyone being a bit nicer to each other. And that’s not a bad idea.