SCRITTI POLLITI White Bread Black Beer Rough Trade (2006)
Just when you were consoling yourself with 1985's classic 'Cupid and Psyche', and wondering whatever happened to Green Gartside, out pops 'White Bread Black Beer' his first album since 1999.
Green's hallmarks of clever if obscure wordplay and intricate arrangements are still in place. But musically this CD puts greater emphasis on his distinctive vocals rather than a particular groove.
In this respect, cold callers will perhaps encounter a sort of Simon and Garfunkel or Beach Boys with advanced computer technology, such is the density of vocal layering. Green's vocal inflections and stylings sometimes remind me of Steve Miller, but perhaps more especially Donald Fagen. He also shares the same high production values, and lyrical lambast, as the Steely Dan man.
Whereas Green's mid-Atlantic falsetto stylings perfectly complemented an essentially funky pop album like 'Cupid', or even on the rap influenced 'Anomie and Bonjomie', his idiosyncratic style on 'White Bread Black Beer' (funky only in patches) may not suit all. But then, I suppose Green has - in two decades - simply moved on.
The album starts well with the first single, 'The Boom Boom Bap' which moves from ambient textures to the synth-driven.
'No Fine Lines' has the prevalent Brian Wilson echoes, as does 'Snow In Sun'. 'Cooking' has a 'Stuck In The Middle With You' acoustic vibe whilst 'Throw' showcases Green's self-harmonising.
'Dr Abernathy' will for many be a standout track with its blend of acoustic verse and blatant sixties stomping chorus. 'After Six' has a very seventies synth-driven rhythm reminiscent of 'Spirit In The Sky'. 'Window Wide Open' stands out because Green's guitar adds a welcome new texture to the synths and the synth drums.
'Mrs Hughes' is another highlight and features a funky coda but this is really the only segment (other than 'E Eleventh Nuts') that really connects with classic funky period Politti. Shamefully, Green fades the groove after a minute.
Overall, the vibe on 'White Bread Black Beer' is still retro and still very high quality, if a little more measured and homespun, but those expecting another 'Cupid' will be disappointed.
Whilst a new album from Green is to be welcomed and is these days as rare as hen's molars I am not convinced that, in the context of highly economical output, this one will have longevity although it does repay repeated listens. Perhaps, twenty years on, 'Cupid and Psyche' should still be savoured as Green's abiding achievement.