ALBOROSIE – ESCAPE FROM BABYLON
Alborosie’s second album is a more mature and evenly paced affair than his limited edition 2008 debut Soul Pirate. This time he’s releasing through Greensleeves – complete with their vintage mural style artwork – and there is a noticeable classic Greensleeves/Roots Radics feel to songs such as the dreamy, slightly sexist “Good Girl,” and “Can’t Stand It” (featuring a Dennis Brown sample from his Joe Gibbs hit.)
Another key component of the sound is Bob Marley, particularly the Survival Uprising era, for tracks like “America” and “Dung A Babylon” have a similar hooky, clavi bounce. Clearly, Alborosie is aiming for superstar status (the press release suggests he is courting a Grammy) yet he doesn’t have as deep a bag of song writing tricks as Marley (he rehashes an entire short phrase from “Work,” off Soul Pirate, during “Dung A Babylon” – something Bob would never do.)
But “Pupa” Albo has always specialised in creating a seamless blend of famous reggae eras rather than building anew from the ground up. And there is lots of subtle, cross breeding innovation on display. “Mama Don’t Like You” puts a stagy Musical Theatre melody and comic narrative to a mid-sixties slowed down ska type beat; and throughout the album he uses a variety of different deliveries – nasal, throaty, pitched up – to create a cast of characters, effects and moods.
The lyrics have a personal and ambiguous slant. Last time around, he said some vague but generally positive things about diversity. Now he tells us “I never had no money in my pocket and I never finished school” (Global War) and “I don’t hate nobody, maybe I hate myself, so let me waste my time and let me waste myself” (I Rusalem) hinting at shards of self-doubt in the face of critics of his faith.
Ultimately, his clever synthesis of seventies roots, rub-a-dub, waterhouse and other styles may strike sceptics as a little too scholastic and perfect. But for people who judge the man on how he rocks a dance, this is a darker and more assured work that will be playing across Europe – and beyond – all summer long.
— Angus Taylor