In an age where musical stylings, genres and scenes are an ever changing factor, bands do often struggle to remain sounding relevant and find themselves under a constant pressure to reinvent themselves. Heck, bands find it hard to keep popularity after a couple of albums nowadays, its a tough business. Its this that makes it extremely hard for any group to continue their career, especially one like Morcheeba, the acclaimed trip-hop trio almost 20 years away from their 1996 debut album Who Can You Trust?, once again returning to release their eighth studio album Head Up High. How long can a group so reluctant to give up carry on? Is it time to seek pastures new?
Head Up High itself is a rather fitting title for the band. Indeed the group have kept their composure over the years, the original line up of brothers Paul and Ross Godfrey remaining the musical masterminds behind the project whilst long time collaborator and singer Skye Edwards returns making it seem to be a rather familiar affair. Opening track Gimme Your Love whilst retaining the groups signature groove rhythms and trip hop synthesisers sees the band venture perhaps a little further from home with dubstep influenced ‘wob wob’s’ and funky guitars that give the song a bit of edge. Similarly To The Grave is a fairly modern take on the band’s signature sound with a drum & bass style drum beat and the kind of instrumental that would fit comfortably behind most of today’s more prominent hip-hop and rap artists.
Face Of Danger, featuring the rhyming contributions of Chali 2na of hip-hop legends Jurassic 5, is the perfect example of the band branching out of their more sombre roots with a truly upbeat tune and 2na’s impressive verses. The only problem is, its a moment of excitement that isn’t really caught anywhere else. Collaborations are not in short supply on the album in the shape of White Denim vocalist James Petralli and the cheeky UK duo Rizzle Kicks however neither collaboration are very evident and its easy to reach the album without realising. In fact getting through the album with a recollection of individual tracks is a bit of a challenge. Not to say the songs themselves are bad, they are all made well and feature impressive instrumentals from the Godfrey brothers with Edward’s vocals as smooth as ever, theres just nothing particularly memorable.
Head Up High is the kind of record that wears its intentions firmly on its sleeve, a bold statement of intent that has the trio almost screaming “Were still here! Listen to us!”, its results are unfortunately a bit too similar. You have to respect the trio for bringing out another collection of quite commendable trip-hop and groovy songs. Are they good? Sure, but are they enough? Perhaps not, at least not for this reviewer. The collaborations barely seem like an innovative move but rather a tool to build some hype for the group which makes the promise of the record suffer and makes you wonder, what was the aim, music or money? Whatever the answer, it might be time for Morcheeba to try something new, while their heads can still be held high.
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